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-J  I  ■"  '.  .■  .  •• 

IBlesseo  ITbomas  riDorc 




BR  350  .M67  B74  1891 
Bridgett,  T.  E.  1829-1899 
Life  and  writings  of  Sir 
Thomas  More 


From     Hofbeins     sketch     made  iJi    Hit 
^'"'  '  '       Martins    aqi 

MAR  22  19: 



loar^i  r  ^•'' 






]'.V    THE 

Rev.    T.     E.     BRIDGETT 


LONDON:    BURNS  &  GATES,  Limited 



In  More's  dedicatory  letter  to  Thomas  Ruthal  of  his 
translation  into  Latin  of  three  of  Lucian's  dialogues, 
he  complained  that  writers  of  the  lives  of  saints  some- 
times indulge  in  falsehoods:  "  They  have  scarcely  left 
a  life  of  martyr  or  of  virgin  without  foisting  into  it  some- 
thing untrue — piously,  no  doubt  !  for  of  course  there 
was  a  danger  lest  truth,  left  to  itself,  should  not  be  able 
to  stand  upright :  so  that  it  was  necessary  to  prop  it  up 
with  lies!"* 

I  may  say  that  my  first  anxiety  in  composing  this 
Life  of  the  illustrious  writer,  chancellor  and  martyr,  has 
been  not  to  merit  this  reproach  ;  to  state  nothing  that 
I  did  not  believe,  and  to  accept  nothing  for  which  I  had 
not  historical  evidence.  My  first  care  was  to  collate  the 
biographies  of  More  already  in  existence. 

In  giving  some  account  of  the  principal  of  these,  I 
shall  be  able  at  the  same  time  to  state  the  sources  from 
which  a  correct  and  complete  life  of  More  can  be  drawn. 

*  Itaque  nuUam  fere  martyris,  nullam  virginis  vitam  pra;termiserunt, 
in  quam  non  aliquidhujusmodi  mendaciorum  inseruerint;  pie  scilicet,  alio- 
quin  periculum  erat  ne  Veritas  non  posset  sibi  ipsa  sufficere,  nisi  fulciretur 
mendaciis.  This  epistle  is  ascribed  to  Erasmus  in  the  Leyden  edition  of 
his  works;  but  wrongly.  It  is  More's,  and  bears  his  name  both  in  the 
original  edition  and  in  his  collected  works. 


My  own  conclusion  was,  that  such  a  Life  still  remained 
to  be  written  ;  and  I  have  made  a  serious  attempt  to 
supply  the  want.  My  readers  and  critics  must  judge 
how  far  I  have  succeeded. 

1.  Erasmus.  In  the  letters  of  Erasmus  there  are 
descriptions  of  More  so  minute  and  full,  thou^s^h  written 
during  his  lifetime,  that  Erasmus  may  almost  be  called 
his  first  biographer.  There  is  also  a  large  correspon- 
dence between  the  two  friends.  This  source  had  already 
been  well  used  by  Stapleton  ;  but  I  have  taken  nothing 
at  second-hand.  It  will  be  seen  that  the  writings  of 
Erasmus  have  supplied  me  with  some  of  my  best 

2.  Roper.  More's  son-in-law,  William  Roper,  resided 
with  him  for  sixteen  years.  In  the  time  of  Queen  Mary 
he  wrote  down  his  reminiscences,  as  well  as  details 
learnt  from  his  wife,  Margaret  More.  These  remini- 
scences were  not  intended  as  a  complete  Life.  They 
were  notes  supplied  to  Dr.  Nicholas  Harpsfield,  Arch- 
deacon of  Canterbur}-,  by  whom  they  were  worked  up 
into  a  Life  to  be  mentioned  immediately.  Roper,  writ- 
ing from  memory  twenty  years  after  the  death  of  More, 
makes  a  few  mistakes  in  dates,  but  his  narrative  bears 
intrinsic  evidence  of  the  simple  uprightness  of  the 
narrator  and  of  his  substantial  accuracy,  which  is  con- 
firmed by  historical  documents.  This  Life,  or  rather 
these  notes,  were  in  circulation  in  MS.  and  were  used 
by  compilers  of  lives  long  before  they  were  printed. 
They   were   first    printed    in    Paris   in   1626 ;     then  by 

*  I  have  used  throughout  the  Leyden  edition  of  Erasmus. 


Hearne  in  1716  ;  and  by  Lewis  in  1729,  1731,  1765, 
who  added  a  valuable  appendix  of  documents.  The 
best  edition  is  that  of  Singer  in  1817,  of  which  only  150 
copies  were  printed.  Roper's  Life  of  More  is  also  an- 
nexed to  Mr.  Lumley's  edition  of  the  Utopia. 

3.  Harpsfield.  a  Life  of  More  was  composed  by 
Nicholas  Harpsfield,  Archdeacon  of  Canterbury,  in  the 
time  of  Queen  Mary.  In  his  dedication  of  it  to  William 
Roper,  he  says  that  he  has  used  the  materials  supplied 
to  him  by  Roper,  but  has  been  able  to  add  somethin^^  of 
his  own.  I  have  carefulh'  collated  the  two,  and  I  find 
that  Harpsfield  is  far  more  diffuse  than  his  original,  but 
without  much  gain  to  the  narrative.  What  he  has 
added  to  the  history  is  derived  principalh'  from  the 
writings  of  More.  This  Life  has  not  been  printed. 
Several  MS.  copies  exist.*  I  have  used  a  careful 
transcript  from  Harpsfield's  MS.  in  the  British  Museum, 
Harl.  6253,  lent  to  me  by  the  Rev.  John  Morris,  S.J., 

4.  George  Lilly,  son  of  W^illiam  Lilly,  More's 
fellow-student,  wrote  some  "  Elogia  virorum  aliquot  qui 
nostrosaeculo  eruditione  et  doctrinaclari,memorabilesque 
fuerunt ".  These  were  Colet,  (William)  Lilly,  Grocyn, 
Linacre,  Lupset,  Pace,  Fisher,  More,  and  (William) 
Latimer.  He  gives  about  two  pages  to  each,  rather  ol 
general  eulogy  than  facts.  There  is  nothing  of  value 
for  the  Life  of  More. 

*  The  copy  in  the  Bodleian  was  seized  by  Topclif,  the  informer  and 
priest-catcher,  on  13th  April,  1582,  among  the  books  of  Thomas  More, 
the  martyr's  grandson  (Bodley  Rawlinson's  letters,  23).  There  is  a 
copy,  in  Emmanuel  College,  Cambridge,  and  two  at  Lambeth. 


5.  Maurice  Chauncy's  Historia  aliquot  nostri  scecxdi 
martyrum  (1550).     This  also  is  merely  a  short  sketch. 

6.  Lodiocius  Pacseus,  a  Spanish  Dominican  (ap- 
parently of  English  origin),  a  learned  and  eloquent 
man,  took  much  pains  in  gathering  materials  for  a 
Life  of  More.     Death  cut  short  the  work  (Stapleton). 

7.  Rastell's  Life  of  More.  William  Rastell,  the 
son  of  John  Rastell  and  Elizabeth,  sister  of  Sir  Thomas 
More,  was  born  in  London  in  1508.  He  first  followed 
his  father's  business  as  printer,  and  then  studied  the 
law  at  Lincoln's  Inn.  In  the  time  of  Edward  VI.  he 
went  into  exile,  but  returning  in  the  reign  of  Mary, 
became  serjeant-at-law  and  judge.  He  collected  and 
edited  the  English  works  of  his  uncle  and  also  wrote 
his  Life,  as  Sander  informs  us.  The  latter  fact  has 
been  denied  by  Burnet,  but  it  does  not  rest  merely  on 
the  assertion  of  Sander,  though  that  would  be  sufficient 
evidence.  In  vol.  152  of  the  Arundel  Collection  in  the 
British  Museum  are  some  "  Notes  from  Rastell's  Life 
of  More,''  and  in  the  same  volume  a  fragment  of  a  large 
work  that  had  been  divided  into  books  and  chapters. 
This  fragment  bears  no  title  or  name  of  au-thor,  but  the 
careful  reader  will  find  that  the  "  Notes  "  are  taken 
from  it,  thus  showing  that  it  is  a  part  of  Rastell's  Life 
of  More.  The  extracts,  however,  only  regard  Fisher, 
having  been  copied  for  the  description  of  the  bishop's 
martyrdom,  of  which  Rastell  was  an  eye-witness. 
Unfortunately  the  rest  of  this  work  is  not  known  to 
exist,  nor  do  any  of  the  writers  of  More's  life  appear  to 
have  used  it.  In  the  time  of  Elizabeth,  Rastell  again 
went  into  exile  at  Louvain.       He  died  in  1565.      As  he 


had  married  Winifred,  daughter  of  John  Clements  and 
Margaret  Gigs,  More's  adopted  child,  he  had  every 
means  of  obtaining  authentic  information.  It  is  there- 
fore greatly  to  be  hoped  that  this  Life  may  be  yet  found 
in  some  continental  library. 

8.  Stapleton's  Tres  Thom.e.  By  far  the  best 
Life  of  More  is  that  of  Thomas  Stapleton,  published  at 
Douai  in  1588.  Stapleton  was  born  in  Sussex,  in  July, 
1535,  the  year  and  month  of  the  martyrdom  of  Blessed 
Thomas  More.  He  was  educated  at  Winchester  and 
New  College,  Oxford,  and  was  prebendary  of  Chichester 
in  the  reign  of  Mary.  He  left  England  at  the  accession 
of  Elizabeth,  and  lived  forty-two  years  in  exile.  He  was 
regius  professor  of  Holy  Scripture  in  the  University  of 
Louvain  and  canon  of  St.  Peter's  in  that  city.  No  name 
probably  stands  higher  than  his  as  a  controversialist. 
His  book,  Trcs  Thonice,  contains  the  lives  of  St.  Thomas 
the  Apostle,  of  St.  Thomas  of  Canterbury,  and  of 
Thomas  More.  In  his  introduction  he  tells  us  that  he 
had  the  help  derived  from  long  intimacy  with  Dr.  John 
Clements,  More's  favourite  scholar,  and  his  wife, 
Margaret  Gigs ;  as  also  with  John  Harris,  More's 
secretary,  and  Dorothy  Colly,  his  wife,  who  had  been 
servant  to  Margaret  Roper  and  had  helped  to  bury  Sir 
Thomas  ;  w^ith  John  Haywood,  the  epigrammatist,  who 
was  very  intimate  with  William  Rastell.  During 
several  years  Stapleton  gathered  from  all  these  their 
reminiscences  and  anecdotes,  and  committed  them  to 
paper  at  the  time,  with  a  view  of  one  da\-  writing  a  Life. 
This,  happily,  he  lived  to  accomplish.  He  also  studied 
carefully  the  Latin  and  English  writings  of  More,  and 


the  letters  of  Erasmus  and  other  learned  contemporaries. 
Living  in  exile,  he  had,  of  course,  no  help  from  English 
documents,  but  his  friends  and  fellow-exiles,  especially 
John  Harris,  at  the  death  of  More  had  secured  some  of 
his  unpublished  MSS.,  the  knowledge  of  which  we  owe 
to  Stapleton.  It  is  certain,  also,  that  he  had  a  copy  of 
William  Ropers  notes. 

Stapleton's  Life  of  More  has  been  frequently  printed 
in  Latin  ;  it  has  been  translated  into  French.  I  am 
not  aware  of  any  English  translation. 

9.  In  the  Lambeth  Library,  together  with  a  copy  of 
Harpsfield,  there  is  a  MS.  Life  of  More  (in  the  same 
vol.,  179),  which  has  been  printed  by  Dr.  Wordsworth  in 
his  Ecclesiastical  Biography  (vol.  ii.).  An  introductory 
letter  bears  the  date  1599.  The  Preface  is  signed  "  Ro- 
Ba  ".  The  author  was  a  Catholic,  and  the  Life  is  made 
up  from  the  Lives  by  Roper,  Harpsfield,  and  especially 
from  Stapleton.  The  compiler  does  not  seem  to  have 
added  anything  from  other  sources. 

10.  Cresacre  More's  Life.  Between  1615-1620 
another  English  Life  of  More  was  composed.  It  was 
printed  in  1627,  and  bore  the  initials  ''  M.  T.  M."  The 
editor,  M.  C.  M.  E.,  attributes  it  to  Thomas  More,  a 
priest,  and  great-grandson  of  Sir  Thomas.  Yet  there  was 
abundant  internal  evidence  that  it  was  written  bv  a 
layman.  Hence  the  editor  of  the  second  edition  of 
1726  attributed  it  to  Thomas  More,  Esquire.  A  third 
edition  appeared  in  1828,  with  a  Preface  by  the  Rev. 
Joseph  Hunter,  E.S.A.,  clearing  up  the  matter  and 
assigning  the  work  to  its  real  author,  Cresacre  More,  of 
More  Place,  Co.  Herts,  and  Barnborough,  in  Yorkshire, 


Esquire.  This  gentleman  was  the  great-grandson  of 
Sir  Thomas,  and  the  youngest  of  thirteen  children  ; 
but  the  inheritance  had  devolved  on  him  by  the  death  of 
his  elder  brothers  or  by  their  entering  religious  orders. 

This  Life  of  Sir  Thomas  is  much  esteemed  and  often 
quoted ;  but  after  collating  it  carefully  with  Stapleton, 
Roper  and  Harpsfield,  I  find  that  it  contains  very 
little  original  matter.  I  have  preferred,  therefore,  to 
quote  directly  from  the  sources  from  which  Cresacre 
More  drew. 

II.  Varia.  Of  other  Lives  I  need  not  say  much. 
The  Mirror  of  Virtne  (1626),  The  History  of  the  Life 
and  Death  of  More,  by  J.  H.  (John  Hoddesden), 
are  mere  abridgments  of  Stapleton.  Memoirs  and 
Lives,  by  Dr.  Warner,  Dibdin,  Miss  Taylor,  and 
articles  in  Cyclopaedias  do  not  profess  to  do  more 
than  select  and  rearrange.  The  two  volumes  of  the 
Memoir  of  Sir  T.  More,  by  Sir  A.  Cayley  (1808),  are 
principally  taken  up  with  an  account  of  some  of  his 
writings,  particularly  his  poems,  and  contain  some 
interesting  poetical  translations  by  Archdeacon  Wrang- 
ham.  A  book  called  Philomorus,  of  which  the  second 
edition  appeared  in  1878,  is  almost  exclusively  given 
to  More's  epigrams,  as  they  illustrate  his  life  and 
character.  In  1807  appeared  Lives  of  British  Statesmen, 
by  John  Macdiarmid.  These  are  More,  Cecil,  Went- 
worth,  and  Hyde.  The  Right  Hon.  Sir  James  Mackin- 
tosh supplied  a  very  interesting  sketch  of  More's  life 
to  the  Cabinet  Cyclopedia ;  this  was  printed  separately 
in  1844.  Mr.  Foss,  in  his  Lives  of  the  Judges,  and  Lord 
Campbell,   in    his   Lives  of  the   Chancellors,  have  con- 


sidered  Sir  Thomas  principall}'  as  a  lawyer.  Among 
Catholics,  the  Rev.  W.  J.  Walter  produced  a  good  Life 
in  two  small  volumes,  for  Dolman's  Catholic  Library 
(2nd  ed.,  1840),  and  the  accomplished  authoress  oi  Chris- 
tian Schools  and  Scholars  gave  us  a  charming  sketch  in 
her  Three  Chancellors,  Wykeham,  Waynfleet,  and  More 
(Burns  &  Gates).  Miss  Stewart's  Life  of  More  is  trivial 
and  inaccurate. 

12.  Seebohm's  Oxford  Reformers,  of  which  the  3rd 
edition  appeared  in  1887.  By  "  Oxford  Reformers"  Mr. 
Seebohm  means,  not  reformers  of  Oxford,  but  three  Oxford 
scholars,  Colet,  More,  and  Erasmus,  who  were  working 
together  at  a  deep  reformation  of  the  Church  when 
Luther's  reformation  came  to  hinder  or  divert  their 
work.  I  ha\e  read  this  work  more  than  once  on 
account  of  the  praise  given  to  it,  and  I  have  taken 
great  pains  to  weigh  and  verify  its  statements.  In 
the  course  of  the  following  Life  I  am  obliged  to  contest 
many  of  Mr.  Seebohm's  conclusions.  I  will  mereh'  say 
here  that  I  consider  the  whole  book  to  be  fantastic  and 
misleading,  built  up  from  conjectures  and  misunder- 
standings, and  by  false  deductions.  As  the  story 
breaks  off  with  Dean  Colet's  death  in  15 19,  More's 
part  is  quite  secondary  as  well  as  fragmentary.  Mr. 
Seebohm  has  given  great  care  to  questions  of  date, 
especialh'  as  regards  the  earl}'  life  and  correspondence 
of  Erasmus. 

13.  More's  Own  Works  have  been  my  principal  study. 
Of  these  I  shall  give  an  account  in  the  proper  place. 
There  will  be  grounds  for  reproach  to  the  Catholics  of 
England  if,  in  the  course  of  a  few  }cars,  there  is  not  a 


complete  and  careful  edition  of  all  his  works,  both  in 
Latin  and  English.  With  the  exception  of  the  Dialogue 
of  Comfort  in  Tribulation,  reprinted  by  Dolman,  and  the 
translations  of  the  Utopia  and  the  History  of  Richard 
III.,  More's  English  writings  are  almost  inac- 
cessible.* Even  in  the  British  Museum  there  is  but 
one  copy  of  the  great  black  letter  collection  by  William 
Rastell  of  1456  pages  in  double  column.  I  gratefully 
acknowledge  the  loan  of  a  copy  of  this  rare  book  from 
C.  T.  Gatty,  Esq.,  F.S.A.,  which  has  much  facilitated 
my  labours.  I  have  used  the  Francfort  edition  of 
More's  Latin  works  of  i68g.  There  are  some  opus- 
cida  and  many  letters  not  contained  in  any  (so-called) 
Opera  Omnia,  I  trust  none  of  these  has  escaped  my 

Here  let  me  say  that  were  I  writing  the  Life  of  one 
whose  works  might  be  supposed  to  be  in  the  hands  of 
my  readers,  or  easily  accessible  to  them,  I  should  not 
feel  myself  justified  in  quoting  as  I  have  done.  I  have 
translated  long  passages  from  More's  Latin  works  and 
transcribed  pages  from  his  English  writings,  as  freeh*  as 
if  I  were  printing  from  unique  MSS.  in  my  own  posses- 
sion. For  the  same  reason  I  have  generally  given  his 
letters  and  those  addressed  to  him  in  full,  instead  of 
incorporating  the  substance  in  my  own  narrative.  My 
readers  will  have  to  take  nothing  from  me  on  trust. 
They  will  have  the  very  text  of  my  "  evidences  "  on 
every  point.     I  am  aware  that  this  method  interferes 

*  More's  translation  of  the  Life  of  Pico  delta  Miraiidiila  has  been  re- 
edited  since  the  above  was  written  (see  infra,  p.  78). 


somewhat  with  the  easy  flow  of  the  narrative,  and  per- 
haps doubles  its  length.  The  compensating  advantages 
are  that  the  reader  can  form  his  own  judgment,  and  has 
only  to  rely  on  the  biographer  for  the  accuracy  and  the 
completeness  of  the  record.  He  gains  also  some  know- 
ledge of  More  as  a  writer. 

One  singular  result  is  inevitable  from  this  method  of 
presenting  my  materials.  More  wrote  both  in  Latin 
and  in  English.  The  English  in  the  early  part  of  the 
sixteenth  century  has  become  antiquated,  and  thus  pre- 
sents a  great  contrast  with  the  translations  from  Latin 
into  modern  English.  More  will,  therefore,  be  found 
speaking,  as  it  were,  two  languages,  or  two  very  different 
dialects  of  the  same  language — that  of  the  first  years  of 
the  sixteenth  century,  and  that  of  the  last  years  of  the 

If  this  is  anomalous,  it  may  serve  to  bring  home  to  us 
an  important  fact.  What  we  call  the  quaint  words  and 
turns  of  old  English  make  us  regard  the  writers  or 
speakers  of  that  language  as  themselves  quaint,  strange, 
uncouth,  rude,  simple,  or  in  some  wa}-  unlike  men  and 
women  of  the  same  class  of  society,  the  same  talents 
and  education  at  the  present  day.  But  if  they  wrote  in 
Latin,  the  delusion — for  such  it  is — is  dissipated.  Latin 
is  to  us  what  it  was  to  them.  It  has  not  become  anti- 
quated or  changed  its  form.  \\t  find  that  they  wrote 
just  as  we  should  write,  if  we  were  as  well  versed  in  the 
language  as  they  were.  They  thought  just  as  we  think. 
We  turn  their  words  into  our  modern  English,  and  all 
quamtncss  has  disappeared.  There  is  nothing  odd  or 
unusual  in  their  way  of  reasoning  or  in  their  modes  of 


feeling.  As  soon  as  they  speak  our  own  language  in 
our  own  form  or  dialect,  we  judge  of  them  for  good  or 
evil  as  we  judge  of  our  contemporaries  ;  and  we  cease  to 
patronise  them,  as  if  they  were  only  clever  boys  or  pro- 
mising savages. 

I  have  modernised  the  spelling,  but  I  have  been 
scrupulous  not  to  alter  a  word  in  making  extracts.  My 
reason  is  that  More  was  very  precise  in  his  choice  of 
words  and  in  their  arrangement,  whereas  I  can  discover 
no  rule  in  the  spelling.  Besides  this,  the  spelling  is  not 
that  of  the  author,  but  of  the  printer.  By  a  comparison 
between  the  first  and  second  editions  of  More's  English 
works,  it  is  clear  that  the  type-setter  w^as  free  to  vary  the 
spelling  according  to  the  exigence  of  the  line,  adding 
a  final  e  or  doubling  a  consonant  where  the  modern 
type-setter  would  use  a  space.  The  following  passage, 
amusing  in  itself,  will  explain  what  I  mean  by  More's 
choice  of  exact  words  : — 

No  AND   Nay. 

"  I  woulde  not  here  note,  by  the  way,  that  Tyndal  here 
translateth  '  no  '  for  '  nay,'  for  it  is  but  a  trifle  and  mis- 
taking of  the  Englishe  worde  :  saving  that  ye  shoulde 
see  that  he  whych  in  two  so  plain  Englishe  wordes, 
and  so  common  as  is  naye  and  no,  can  not  tell  when  he 
should  take  the  tone  and  when  the  tother,  is  not,  for 
translating  into  Englishe,  a  man  very  mete. 

"  For  the  use  of  those  two  wordes  in  answerring  to  a 
question  is  this  :  Naye  *  answereth  the  question  framed 

*  Rastell  has  here  put  no,  b}-  an  evident  misprint. 


by  the  affirmative.  As,  for  example,  if  a  manne  should 
aske  Tindall  hymselfe :  Ys  an  heretike  mete  to  translate 
Holy  Scripture  into  Englishe  ?  Lo,  to  thys  question* 
if  he  will  aunswere  trew  Englishe,  he  must  aunswere 
'nay'  and  not  'no'.  But  and  if  the  question  be  asked  hym 
thus,  lo  :  Is  not  an  heretyque  mete  to  translate  Holy 
Scripture  into  English  ?  To  this  question,  lo,  if  he  will 
aunswer  true  English,  he  must  aunswer  '  no '  and  not 
'  nay  '. 

"  And  a  lyke  difference  is  there  betwene  these  two 
adverbes  '  ye  '  and  '  yes '.  For  if  the  questeion  bee  framed 
unto  Tindall  by  thaffirmative  in  thys  fashion  :  If  an 
heretique  falsely  translate  the  Newe  Testament  into 
Englishe,  to  make  hys  false  heresyes  seeme  the  Worde 
of  Godde,  be  hys  bookes  worthy  to  be  burned  ?  To 
this  question,  asked  in  thys  wyse,  yf  he  will  aunswere 
true  Englishe,  he  must  aunswere  'ye'  and  not  'yes'.  But 
nowe  if  the  question  be  asked  hym  thus,  lo,  b}'  the 
negative  :  If  an  heretike  falsely  translate  the  Newe 
Testament  in  to  Englishe,  to  make  hys  false  heresyes 
seme  the  Word  of  God,  be  not  his  bokes  well  worth}-  to 
be  burned  ?  To  thys  question,  in  thys  fashion  framed, 
if  he  wyll  aunswere  trew  Englyshe,  he  maye  not  aunswere 
'ye,'  but  he  must  aunswere  'yes,'  and  say  :  '  Yes,  mary 
be  they,  bothe  the  translation  and  the  translatour,  and 
al  that  wyll  holde  wyth  them '. 

"  And  thys  thing,  lo,  though  it  be  no  great  matter, 
yet  I  have  thought  good  to  give  Tindall  warning  of, 
because  I  would  have  him  write  true  one  way  or  other, 
that,  though  I  can  not  make  him  by  no  meane  to  write 


true  matter,  I  would  have  him  yet  at  the  lestwise  write 
true  Englishe."  * 

In  this  passage  we  have  "God"  and  **  Godde," 
"Tyndal"  and  ''Tindall,"  "heretike"  and  "heretyque," 
''true"  and  '' trew,"  '*  aunswer,"  "  aunswere,"  ''an- 
swereth,"  "  answerring,"  and  i  interchanged  with  _v,  ad 
libiUim.  What  would  be  gained  by  reproducing  this 
medley,  to  the  confusion  of  the  modern  reader  ? — not 
even  More's  own  spelling,  if  my  theory  of  the  type- 
setter's discretion  or  licence  is  correct.  Yet  the  passage 
shows  that  More's  words  may  not  be  tampered  with. 
He  wrote  the  purest  English  of  his  day,  notwithstanding 
''  the  tone  and  the  tother,"  which  was  no  vulgarism. 

14.  State  Papers,  I  now  come  to  my  principal 
reason  for  composing  a  new  Life  of  the  great  chancellor, 
rather  than  translating  or  annotating  Stapleton.  It  is, 
that  we  have  access  to  many  important  documents  un- 
known to  him  or  to  any  former  biographer.  The  Calen- 
dars of  Letters  and  Papers,  illustrating  the  reign  of 
Henry  VIII.,  have  been  carried  through  and  beyond 
the  life  of  Sir  Thomas.  The  diligence  of  the  accom- 
plished editors,  Dr.  Brewer  and  Mr.  James  Gairdner, 
has  left  almost  nothing  unprinted,  or  at  least  unindicated, 
that  concerns  either  Henry  or  those  brought  into  rela- 
tions with  him.  With  these  great  volumes  as  my  help 
and  guide,  I  had  already  become  pretty  familiar  with 
all  that  bears  on  the  life  of  More  when  composing  my 
Life  of  his  fellow-martyr,  Blessed  John  Fisher;  but  I 

*  English  Works,  p.  448.  This  passage  is  followed  by  very  interesting 
remarks  on  the  force  of  the  Greek  article,  and  how  its  force  may  be 
rendered  in  English. 


have  gone  through  all  the  volumes  a  second  time,  and 
sought  out  the  originals  in  the  Record  Office  or  British 
'Museum,  wherever  there  seemed  to  remain  anything  to 
be  cleared  up. 

Such,  then,  are  the  materials  of  this  Memoir.  Of  the 
use  made  of  them  the  writer  is  no  competent  judge. 
His  self-love  suggests  to  him  no  higher  merits  than  that 
he  has  been  industrious,  and  has  worked  with  a  sym- 
pathy for  his  subject.  Sympathy,  however,  does  not 
mean  either  blindness  or  partialit}'.  I  could  have  no 
real  sympathy  with  such  a  man  as  Sir  Thomas  More  if 
I  did  not  appreciate  the  freedom  of  his  judgment,  and 
freely  use  my  own  with  due  proportion.  Mr.  Gairdner, 
■in  a  very  kind  notice  of  my  Life  of  Blessed  John  Fisher 
in  the  Academy,  remarks  that,  "for  the  great  majority 
of  Christians,  the  recent  '  Beatification  '  of  Fisher, 
More,  and  others,  has  raised  them  beyond  the  reach  of 
criticism  by  a  distinct  act  of  authority.  Rome  has  de- 
clared her  judgment  ;  and  no  fine,  discriminating 
touches,  no  delicate  lights  and  shades,  can  be  permitted 
to  interfere  with  the  uniform  brightness  of  one  of  her 
saintly  martyrs."  Mr.  Gairdner  somewhat  guards  these 
words  by  adding  :  "  This,  we  suspect,  is  what  an  ordi- 
nary Protestant  will  think,  and  an  ordinary  Romanist 
will  really  think  the  same,  with  this  difference  merely, 
that  the  latter  is  submissive  and  humble  before  an 
authority  that  the  former  does  not  feel  himself  in  any 
way  bound  to  respect  ".*  Mr.  Gairdner  is,  however, 
here  not  quite  accurate.  Though  he  seems  to  allow 
that   a   few  exceptional   "Romanists"   will   exercise   a 

*  Academy,  August  4,  1888,  p.  64. 


freer  judgment,  he  is  not  authorised  to  suppose  that 
even  the  most  solemn  judgment  of  canonisation  places 
the  object  of  it  beyond  a  fair,  candid,  and  intelligent 
criticism,  even  for  the  most  docile  and  ordinary 
Catholics.  But  the  life,  character,  and  writings  of 
Sir  Thomas  More  have  been  subjected  to  no  authori- 
tative scrutiny  by  the  Holy  See,  and  no  judgment 
whatever  has  been  passed  upon  them.  It  is  only  as 
martyrs  of  the  faith  that  he  and  those  included  in  the 
decree  of  the  29th  December,  1886,  are  declared  Blessed. 
But  neither  by  this  first  decree,  permitting  their  public 
cultus,  nor  by  any  further  and  more  precise  judgment, 
will  the  Church  wish  to  convert  the  biographer  into  a 
writer  of  legend  or  a  mere  panegyrist.  Canonisation 
surrounds  the  saintly  head  with  a  halo,  but  does  not 
transform  the  features  so  that  we  cannot  steadily  fix 
our  gaze  upon  them.  If  I  have  been  sparing  in  criti- 
cism, it  is  because  the  longer  and  more  minutely  I 
have  studied  those  features,  the  more  I  have  admired 
and  loved  them. 

A  word  in  conclusion  regarding  the  frontispiece. 
Several  beautiful  engravings  of  More's  portrait  have 
been  published,  which  I  might  have  reproduced.  The 
portrait  that  I  have  chosen  is  somewhat  worn  and 
blurred,  but  then  it  is  absolutely  authentic.  It  has  been 
photographed  from  the  original  crayon  sketch  by  Holbein 
in  the  Windsor  Collection.  The  copies  have  been  made, 
with  Her  Majesty's  gracious  permission,  by  Messrs. 
Braun  &  Co.,  of  Paris,  and  the  Autotype  Co.,  London. 







FROM    THE    YEAR    I535    TO    I583. 

England,  once  called  the  Island  of  Saints  and  the  Dowry  of  the  Virgin 
Mother  of  God,  as  even  from  the  first  ages  of  the  Church  it  had  been 
renowned  for  the  sufferings  of  many  Martyrs,  so  also,  when  it  was  torn 
by  the  fearful  schism  of  the  sixteenth  century  from  the  obedience  and 
communion  of  the  Roman  See,  was  not  without  the  testimony  of  those 
who, /or  the  dignity  of  this  See,  and  for  the  truth  of  the  orthodox  Faith, 
did  not  hesitate  to  lay  dozen  their  lives  by  the  shedding  of  their  blood  * 

In  this  most  noble  band  of  Martyrs  nothing  whatever  is  wanting  to 
its  completeness  or  its  honour  :  neither  the  grandeur  of  the  Roman  purple, 
nor  the  venerable  dignity  of  Bishops,  nor  the  fortitude  of  the  Clergy  both 
secular  and  regular,  nor  the  invincible  firmness  of  the  weaker  sex.  Emi- 
nent amongst  them  is  John  Fisher,  Bishop  of  Rochester  and  Cardinal 
of  the  Holy  Roman  Church,  whom  Paul  III.  speaks  of  in  his  Letters  as 
conspicHOHS  for  sanctity,  celebrated  for  learning,  venerable  by  age,  an 
honour  and  an  ornament  to  the  kingdom,  and  to  the  Clergy  of  the 
whole  world.  With  him  must  be  named  the  layman  Thomas  Mori:, 
Chancellor  of  England,  whom  the  same  Pontiff  deservedly  extols,  as 
excelling  in   sacred   learning,   and    courageous    in    the    defence  of  truth, 

*  Gregory  XIII.  Constitution,  Qnofiiam  divinae  bouitati,  ist  May,  1579. 


The  most  authoritative  ecclesiastical  historians,  therefore,  are  unani- 
mously of  opinion  that  they  all  shed  their  blood  for  the  defence, 
restoration,  and  preservation  of  the  Catholic  Faith.  Gregory  XIII. 
even  granted  in  their  honour  several  privileges  appertaining  to  public 
and  ecclesiastical  worship ;  and  chiefly  that  of  using  their  relics  in 
the  consecration  of  altars,  when  relics  of  ancient  Holy  Martyrs  could 
not  be  had.  Moreover,  after  he  had  caused  the  sufferings  of  the 
Christian  Martyrs  to  be  painted  in  fresco  by  Nicholas  Circiniana  in 
the  Church  of  St.  Stephen  on  the  Coelian  Hill,  he  permitted  also  the 
Martyrs  of  the  Church  in  Ei.gland,  both  of  ancient  and  of  more  recent 
times,  to  be  represented  in  like  manner  by  the  same  artist  in  the  English 
Church  of  the  Most  Holy  Trinity  in  Rome,  including  those  who,  from 
the  year  1535  to  1583,  had  died  under  King  Henry  VIII.  and  Queen 
Elizabeth,  for  the  Catholic  Faith  and  for  the  Primacy  of  the  Roman 
Pontiff.  The  representations  of  these  martyrdoms  painted  in  the  said 
Church  remained,  with  the  knowledge  and  approbation  of  the  Roman 
Pontiffs  who  succeeded  Gregory  XIII.,  for  two  centuries,  until,  about  the 
end  of  the  last  century,  they  were  destroyed  by  wicked  men.  But  copies 
of  them  still  remained  ;  for  in  the  year  1584,  by  privilege  of  the  said 
Gregory  XIII.,  they  had  been  engraved  at  Rome  on  copper-plate  with 
the  title  :  Sufferings  of  the  Holy  Martyrs  who,  in  ancient  and  more  recent 
times  of  persecution,  have  been  put  to  death  in  England  for  Christ,  and 
for  professing  the  truth  of  the  Catholic  Faith.  From  this  record,  either 
by  inscriptions  placed  beneath  them,  or  by  other  sure  indications,  many 
of  these  Martyrs  are  known  by  name;  that  is  to  say,  fifty-four.  They 
are  : — 

Those  who  suffered  death  under  King  Henry  VIII. :  John  Fisher, 
Bishop  of  Rochester,  Cardinal  of  the  Holy  Roman  Church ;  Thomas 
More,  Chancellor  of  England  ;  Margaret  Pole,  Countess  of  Salisbury, 
mother  of  Cardinal  Pole ;  Richard  Reynolds,  of  the  Order  of  St. 
Bridget;  ^ohn  Haile,  Priest;  eighteen  Carthusians — namely,  jl^ohn 
Houghton,  Augustine  Webster,  Robert  Laurence,  William  Exniew, 
Humphrey  Middlemorc,  Sebastian  Newdigate,  John  Rochester ,  jfames 
Walworth,  William  Greenwood,  John  Davy,  Robert  Salt,  Walter 
Picrson,  Thomas  Green,  Thomas  Seryven,  Thomas  Redyng,  Thomas 
jfohnson,  Richard  Bcre,  and  William  Home ;  Johii  Forest,  Priest 
of  the  Order  of  St.  Francis;  yohn  Stone,  of  the  Order  of  St.  Augustine; 
four  Secular  Priests — Thomas  Abel,  Ed7vard  Poicel,  Richard  Fctherston, 
jfohn  Larke ;  and  German  Gardiner,  a  layman. 

Those  who  suffered  under  Elizabeth  :  Priests — Cuthbert  Mayne,  yohn 
Nelson,  Evcrard  Hanse,  Rodolph  Sherivin,  yohn  Payne,  Thomas  Ford, 
jfohn    Shert,    Robert  yohnson,    William   Fylby,   Luke   Kirby,   Laurence 


Richardson,  William   Lacy,  Richard  Kirkinaii,  jfanics  Hudson  or  Tonip- 
son,    William   Hart,  Richard    Thirkcld,    Thomas    Woodhousc,    and 

Plumtrcc.     Also  three  Priests  of  the  Society  of  Jesus — Edmund  Campion, 
Alexander  Briant,  and  Thomas  Cottam.     Lastly,  John  Storey,  Doctor  of 
Laws  ;  John  Felton  and  Thomas  Shcrzcood,  laymen. 

Until  lately,  the  Cause  of  these  Martyrs  had  never  been  officially 
treated.  Some  time  ago,  in  the  year  i860,  Cardinal  Nicholas  Wise- 
man, of  illustrious  memory.  Archbishop  of  Westminster,  and  the 
other  Bishops  of  England,  petitioned  the  Sovereign  Pontiff  Pius  IX., 
of  sacred  memory,  to  institute  for  the  whole  of  England  a  Festival  in 
honour  of  all  Holy  Martyrs,  that  is  to  say,  even  of  those  who,  though  not 
yet  declared  to  be  such,  have  in  latter  times,  for  their  defence  of  the  Catholic 
Religion,  and  especially  for  asserting  tJie  authority  of  the  Apostolic  See, 
fallen  by  the  hands  of  ivicked  men  and  resisted  unto  blood.  But  as,  ac- 
cording to  the  prevailing  practice  of  the  Congregation  of  Sacred  Rites, 
a  Festival  can  be  instituted  in  regard  only  to  those  Servants  of  God  to 
whom  ecclesiastical  honour  (cultus)  has  been  already  given  and  rightly 
sanctioned  by  the  Apostolic  See,  the  said  petition  was  not  granted. 
Wherefore,  in  these  last  years,  a  new  petition  was  presented  to  Our  Holy 
Father  the  Sovereign  Pontiff  Leo  XHL,  by  His  Eminence  Cardinal 
Henry  Edward  Manning,  the  present  Archbishop  of  Westminster,  and 
the  other  Bishops  of  England,  together  with  the  Ordinary  Process  which 
had  been  there  completed,  and  other  authentic  documents,  in  which  were 
contained  the  proofs  of  Martyrdom  as  to  those  who  suffered  from  the  year 
1535  to  15S3,  and  also  the  aforesaid  concessions  of  the  Roman  Pontiffs  in 
regard  to  those  above-mentioned. 

Our  Holy  Father  was  pleased  to  commit  the  examination  of  the  whole 
matter  to  a  Special  Congregation,  consisting  of  several  Cardinals  of  the 
Holy  Roman  Church  and  of  Officials  of  the  Congregation  of  Sacred 
Rites — the  examination  to  be  preceded  by  a  Disquisition,  to  be  drawn  up 
by  the  Right  Reverend  Augustine  Caprara,  Promoter  of  the  Holy  P^aith. 
In  this  Special  Congregation,  assembled  at  the  Vatican  on  the  4th  day 
of  December  of  the  present  year,  the  undersigned  Cardinal  Dominic 
Bartolini,  Prefect  of  the  said  Sacred  Congregation,  who  had  charge  of 
the  Cause,  proposed  the  following  question  :  "  Whether,  by  reason  of  the 
special  concessions  of  the  Roman  Pontiffs,  in  regard  to  the  earlier  Martyrs 
of  England — who,  from  the  year  1535  to  1583,  suffered  death  for  the 
Catholic  Faith,  and  for  the  Primacy  of  the  Roman  Pontiff  in  the  Churchy, 
and  whose  Martyrdoms  were  formerly  painted,  by  authority  of  the 
Sovereign  Pontiff  Gregory  XIII,,  in  the  English  Church  of  the  Most 
Holy  Trinity  in  Rome,  and  in  the  year  1584  were  engraved  at  Rome  on 
copper-plate  l)y  privilege  of  the  same  Pontiff — there  is  evidence  of  the  con- 


cession  of  public  ecclesiastical  honour,  or  of  this  being  a  case  excepted 
by  the  Decrees  of  Pope  Urban  VIII.,  of  Sacred  Memory,  in  the  matter 
and  to  the  effect  under  consideration  ".  The  Most  Eminent  and  Most 
Reverend  Fathers,  and  the  Official  Prelates,  after  hearing  the  written 
and  oral  report  of  the  aforesaid  Promoter  of  the  Holy  Faith,  and  after  the 
matter  in  regard  to  the  fifty-four  Martyrs  above-named  had  been  fully 
discussed,  were  of  opinion  that  the  answer  to  be  given  was :  ^'■Affirmatively, 
or  That  it  is  proved  to  be  a  case  excepted  ". 

The  undersigned  Secretary  having  made  a  faithful  report  of  all  that 
precedes  to  Our  Holy  Father  Pope  Leo  XHI.,  His  Holiness  vouchsafed 
to  approve  the  decision  of  the  Sacred  Special  Congregation,  on  the  gth 
day  of  December,  1886. 

The  present  Decree  was  issued  on  this  29th  day  of  December,  sacred 
to  the  Martyr  Thomas  Archbishop  of  Canterbury,  whose  faith  and  con- 
stancy these  Blessed  Martyrs  so  strenuously  imitated. 


Prefect  of  the  Congregation  of  Sacred  Rites. 
Laurence  Salvati, 

L.  ►J-  S. 


PREFACE,  .... 


I,  Childhood, 
II.  Youth, 

III.  Choice  of  a  State  of  Life, 

IV.  Early  Manhood, 
V.  Personal,     . 


VII.  Literary, 
VIII.  Domestic,     . 
IX.  Secretary  and  Privy  Councillor, 
X,   Diplomatist  and  Statesman, 
XI.  The  German  Reformation, 
XII.   Chancellor, 

XIII.  After  the  Resignation, 

XIV.  Treatment  of  Heretics, 
XV.   English  Controversy, 

XVI.  First  Troubles, 
XVII.  The  Holy  Maid  of  Kent 
XVIII.  Before  the  Council, 
XIX.  Refusal  of  the  Oath, 
XX.  The  Tower, 
XXI.  Ascetic  Writings, 
XXII.   Examinations  in  Prison, 

XXIII.  The  Trial,  . 

XXIV.  The  Martyrdom, 
APPENDIX  A.  Relics,      . 

,,  B.  Monuments, 

„  C.  Pedigrees  and  Arms, 

„  D.  Astronomical  System, 

,,  E.  Some  Descendants  of  the  M 

Chronological  Table  of  Life, 

of  Writings 




















BLESSED  Thomas  More,  hitherto  known  as  Sir  Thomas 
More,  Lord  Chancellor  of  England,  was  the  eldest  son 
of  John  More,   Gentleman,  afterwards  Sir  John  More, 
Knight,   puisne   judge    of  the   King's    Bench   in   the  time  of 
Henry  VHL 

The  early  lives  of  Sir  Thomas  More  place  his  birth  in  the 
year  1480,  thus  making  him  about  fifty-five  years  old  at  the 
time  of  his  martyrdom.*     A  recent  discovery  has  proved  that 

*  His  son-in-law,  Roper,  says  nothing  of  his  age,  nor  does  Harpsfield. 
Cresacre  More  says  he  was  born  in  1480.  He  seems  to  have  taken  this 
date  from  the  family  picture,  commonly  called  the  Burford  Picture,  pamted 
in  1593.  On  this  picture  is  an  inscription  stating  that  in  1505  Sir  Thomas 
was  in  the  twenty-sixth  year  of  his  age,  and  that  he  was  in  his  fifty-fifth 
year  at  his  death  — 6th  July,  1535.  The  error  arose  from  supposing  that 
the  more  famous  Holbein  family  picture,  on  which  the  ages  are  noted, 
was  painted  in  1530  ;  for  on  this  Sir  Thomas  is  declared  to  be  in  his 
fiftieth  year.  The  picture,  however,  was  painted  not  later  than  January, 
1528.  This  will  be  shown  later  on.  Stapleton  errs  still  more  widelv. 
In  Chapter  IV.  he  says  that  More  wrote  the  Utopia  in  1516,  being  then 
in  his  thirty-fourth  year,  and  died  in  1535,  in  his  fifty-second  year.  This 
would  place  his  birth  in  the  latter  part  of  1482.  Again,  in  Chapter  VI., 
he  says  that  at  his  death  he  was  not  yet  fully  fifty-two  years  old.  The 
same  mistake  occurs  in  Chapter  I,  Though  Stapleton  was  intimate 
with  members  of  More's  household,  they  apparently  only  guessed  at  his 
age,  and  it  would  seem  from  their  mistake  that  he  looked  younger  than 
he  really  was.  Blessed  John  Fisher's  looks,  on  the  contrary,  caused  his 
age  to  be  greatly  exaggerated. 


2  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

he  was  in  reality  two  years  older.  The  same  document  makes 
known  to  us  the  maiden  name  of  his  mother,  and  the  correct 
number  of  his  brothers  and  sisters.  Stapleton  could  not  dis- 
cover the  mother's  name.  Cresacre  More  gives  it  as  Hand- 
comb  of  Holiwell,  in  Bedfordshire.  This,  however,  was  possi- 
bly the  name — not  of  Sir  Thomas's  mother,  but  of  his  father's 
second  w^ife.*  The  ignorance  and  mistakes  are  easily  accounted 
for  by  the  seizure  of  all  family  papers  by  the  king  at  the  at- 
tainder of  Sir  Thomas. 

In  1868,  Mr.  William  Aldis  Wright  discovered,  on  the  last 
leaves  of  a  MS.  in  the  Library  of  Trinity  College,  Cambridge, 
a  series  of  family  records,  which  supply  names  and  dates  till 
then  unknown.!  From  these  it  appears  that  John  More 
married  on  24th  April,  1474,  Agnes,  daughter  of  Thomas 
Graunger,  in  the  parish  of  St.  Giles  in  Cripplegate  Without, 
London.  They  had  issue,  three  sons  and  three  daughters. 
The  eldest  child,  Jane,  was  born  on  nth  jVLarch,  1475.  The 
second  child  was  Thomas,  the  future  chancellor  and  martyr. 
The  entry  says :  "  On  the  Friday  next  after  the  Feast  of  the 
Purification  of  the  Blessed  Virgin  Mary,  viz.,  the  seventh  day 
of  February,  between  the  second  and  third  hours  of  the  morn- 
ing, was  born  Thomas  More,  son  of  John  More,  Gentleman, 
in  the  17th  year  of  the  reign  of  Edward  IV."  +  In  the  year 
1478,  7th  February  was  Saturday  ;  but  by  a  natural  confusion 
it  has  been  set  down  as  Friday,  since  the  birth  took  place  soon 
after  midnight. 

*  According,  however,  to  Mr.  Foss,  John  More's  second  wife  was 
Mrs.  Bowes,  a  widow,  whose  maiden  name  was  Barton  {Lives  of  yudges, 
vi.  198).     The  third  wife's  name  was  More. 

t  See  Notes  and  Queries,  17th  October,  1868  ;  also  31st  October  and 
5th  November  ;  repubhshed  also  in  Mr.  Seebohm's  Oxford  Reformers, 
2nd  edition  (i86g).    App.  C. 

X  Md  quod  die  veneris  proximo  post  Festum  purificacionis  beate  Marie 
virginis  videlicet  septimo  die  Februarii  inter  horam  secundam  et  horam 
tertiam  in  mane  natus  fuit  Thomas  More  filius  Joannis  More  Gent,  anno 
regni  Regis  Edwardi  quarti  post  conquestum  Anglic  decimo  septimo. 


Agatha,  a  third  child,  was  born  31st  January,  1479  ;  John,  the 
fourth,  on  6th  June,  1480  ;  Edward,  the  fifth,  on  3rd  September, 
1481  :  and  Ehzabeth,  the  sixth  and  last,  on  22nd  September, 
1482.  Stapleton  says  Thomas  had  no  brothers,  and  only  two 
sisters,  Jane  and  Elizabeth.  This  is  repeated  by  Cresacre 
]\Iore,  who  adds  another  error  in  making  Elizabeth  older  than 
Thomas.  It  is  probable  that  John,  Edward,  and  Agatha  all 
died  in  their  infancy. 

In  the  epitaph  which  Sir  Thomas  prepared  for  himself,  he 
says  that  he  was  born  of  "  a  family,  not  illustrious,  yet  honour- 
able ".*  He  was  not  noble,  says  his  great-grandson,  "as  we 
here  in  England  take  nobility  ;  for  none  under  a  baron  (except 
he  be  of  the  Privy  Council)  doth  challenge  it ;  but  as  the  word 
is  taken  in  other  countries  for  gentry,  it  was  otherwise.  Foi' 
Judge  More,  "  (the  father  of  Sir  Thomas),  bare  arms  from  his 
birth,  having  his  coat  quartered,  which  doth  argue  that  he 
came  to  his  inheritance  by  descent,  and  therefore,  although 
by  reason  of  King  Henry's  seizure  of  all  our  evidences,  we 
cannot  certainly  tell  who  were  Sir  John's  ancestors,  yet  must 
they  needs  be  gentlemen  ;  and,  as  I  have  heard,  they  either 
came  out  of  the  ]\Iores  of  Ireland,  or  they  of  Ireland  came 
out  of  us  ".t 

Mr.  Edward  Foss,  who  has  gone  into  the  question  of  More's 
origin  with  much  detail,  differs  entirely  in  his  view  as  to  the 
nobility  of  his  family.  His  researches  have  led  him  to  discover 
three  men  of  the  name  of  John  More,  connected  with  the  Inns 
of  Court.  There  was  one  in  the  Middle  Temple  who  was 
reader  in  that  society  in  1505,  and  again  in  15 12.  Mr.  Foss 
gives  convincing  reasons  that  this  gentleman  cannot  have  been 
the  future  judge,  who  belonged  to  Lincoln's  Inn,  not  to  the 
Temple.     Now,  two  John  Mores  were  members  of  the  society 

*  Familia  non  celebri  sed  honesta  natus. 
t  Life  of  More,  chap.  i. 

4  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

of  Lincoln's  Inn.  One  had  been  butler*  and  steward,  and  was 
admitted  a  student  in  1470.  He  was  subsequently  called  to  the 
bar  and  became  a  bencher,  and  was  appointed  reader  in  1489. 
As  he  had  been  already  a  long  time  {diu)  butler  in  1470,  we 
must  suppose  him  to  have  been  forty,  or  at  least  thirty-five, 
years  old  when  he  became  a  student.  He  cannot  then  have 
been  the  John  More  who  w^as  appointed  judge  in  15 17,  and 
who  died  in   1530,  aged  seventy-eight. 

There  is,  however,  a  second  John  More  in  that  society,  who, 
in  1482,  is  called  Junior.  He  also  was  butler,  and  Mr.  Foss 
takes  him  to  have  been  a  son  of  the  one  just  mentioned,  and 
the  father  of  Sir  Thomas ;  and  he  thinks  he  was  raised  from 
the  position  he  occupied  to  become  a  member  of  the  society 
by  his  father's  influence.  Whatever  may  be  the  truth  with 
regard  to  this  matter,  the  father  of  the  future  chancellor 
received  the  coif  of  sergeant-at-law  in  November,  1503.  He 
became  a  judge  in  the  Court  of  Common  Pleas  in  November, 
15 1 7,  and  w^as  transferred  to  the  King's  Bench  probably  in 
April,  1520. t 

A  few  years  before  his  death.  Sir  Thomas  composed  his 
own  epitaph,  in  which  he  thus  speaks  of  his  father,  who  was 
lately  deceased :  "  His  father,  John  More,  Knight,  appointed 
by  his  king  to  the  order  of  judges  called  the  King's  Bench, 
was  a  man  courteous,  affable,  innocent,  gentle,  merciful,  just, 
and  uncorrupted  ".  The  crayon  sketch  made  by  Holbein  of 
this  venerable  man  in  1527,  when  he  was  in  his  seventy-sixth 
year,  is  still  in  existence  in  the  Windsor  collection.  It  is  a 
charming  face,  full  of  life  and  kindly  mirth.  He  seems  to  be 
uttering  one  of  the  pleasant  sayings  for  which  he  is  said  to 
have  been  famous,  though  eclipsed  i)y  his  more  brilliant  son. 
Two   of  these,  which   Sir  Thomas  has  preserved   for  us,   are 

■*'  We  need  not  think  of  this  office  as  a  mere  menial  function.  We  find 
noblemen  bearing  the  title,  and  receiving  a  salary  as  "butler"  to  a 

t  On  the  pedigree  and  arms  of  Sir  Thomas,  see  Appendix  C. 


somewhat  satirical  upon  women,  although  the  son  quotes  them 
only  as  amusing  illustrations  for  other  purposes :  "  I  would 
that  we  were  all  in  the  case  with  our  own  faults,  as  my 
father  saith  that  we  be  with  our  wives.  For  when  he  heareth 
folk  blame  wives,  and  say  that  there  be  so  many  of  them 
shrews,  he  saith  that  they  defame  them  falsely.  For  he  saith 
plainly  that  there  is  but  one  shrew-wife  in  the  world,  but  he 
saith  indeed  that  every  man  weeneth  he  hath  her,  and  that 
that  one  is  his  own.  So  would  I  fain  that  every  man  would 
ween  there  were  but  one  man  naught  [good-for-nothing]  in 
all  the  w^hole  world,  and  that  that  one  w^ere  himself."*  And 
in  another  place,  speaking  about  a  man's  choosing  his  religion 
among  the  various  sects  :  "  But  now,  if  ye  were  in  the  case  that 
I  have  heard  my  father  merrily  say  every  man  is  at  the  choice 
of  his  wife,  that  ye  should  put  your  hand  into  a  blind  ])ag  full 
of  snakes  and  eels  together,  seven  snakes  for  one  eel,  ye  would, 
I  ween,  reckon  it  a  perilous  choice  to  take  up  one  at  adventure, 
though  ye  had  made  your  special  prayer  to  speed  weH".+  As 
Sir  John  More  was  three  times  married,  it  would  be  interesting 
to  know  the  date  of  these  sayings,  and  whether  they  embody 
the  fruits  of  his  experience,  or  w-ere  a  kind  of  humorous 
philosophy,  which  formed  no  guide  of  his  life.  One  of  his 
son's  epigrams  alludes  to  this  class  of  sharp  sayings  al)out 
wives : — 

Hoc  quisque  dicit  ;  dicit,  at  ducit  tamen, 
Quin  sex  sepultis  septimam  ducit  tamen. 

John  Clements  heard  Sir  Thomas  repeat  what  he  had  heard 
from  his  father,  Sir  John  :  that  his  first  wife  in  a  dream  saw 
engraved  on  her  marriage  ring,  as  in  a  series  of  cameos,  the 
names  and  likenesses  of  the  children  she  should  bear.  One  of 
these  was  so  obscure  that  she  could  not  recognise  it,  and 
this  referred  to  a  child  of  untimely  birth  ;  another  shone  far 
brighter  than  the  rest.      It  is  to  be  supposed  that  it  was  after 

*  English  Works,  p.  233.  t  lb.,  p.  165. 


his  son's  elevation  to  the  chancellorship,  which  the  old  man 
lived  to  witness,  that  he  remembered  and  related  this  story  of 
his  young  wife's  dream.* 

A  tradition  was  handed  down  in  the  family  that  when 
Thomas  was  an  infant,  his  nurse  was  carrying  him  in  her  arms 
as  she  forded  a  river  on  horseback.  The  horse  stumbled  in 
ascending  the  bank ;  the  nurse,  in  fear  of  falling  into  the  water, 
threw  the  child  over  the  iieighbouring  hedge.  When  she  got 
safe  to  land  she  found  the  babe  lying  unhurt,  and  laughing  as 
she  stooped  to  pick  him  up.f 

John  More,  at  the  time  of  his  son's  birth  and  long  after, 
lived  in  Milk  Street,  in  the  city  of  London.  Thomas  was  born 
in  the  heat  of  the  civil  wars  of  the  Roses,  and,  being  five  years 
old  at  the  death  of  Edward  IV.,  overheard  a  neighbour  relate 
to  his  father  a  prediction  made  by  one  of  the  followers  of  the 
Duke  of  York,  afterwards  Richard  III.,  that  his  master  would 
be  king.  This  prediction,  so  soon  followed  by  its  fulfilment, 
made  so  deep  an  impression  on  the  child  that  he  never  forgot 

Roper,  and  after  him  Harpsfield  and  Stapleton,  mention  that 
the  school  in  which  young  Thomas  learned  the  rudiments  of 
Latin  was  St.  Anthony's,  a  free  school  belonging  to  the  Hos- 
pital of  St.  Anthony  in  Threadneedle  Street,  London,  at  that 
time  taught  by  an  excellent  master,  Nicolas   Holt.  §     It   had 

*  When  a  dream  passes  through  five  mouths — the  mother,  Sir  John, 
Sir  Thomas,  Clements,  Stapleton — and  is  at  last  written  down  loo  years 
after  its  occurrence,  we  cannot  be  sure  of  its  original  form.  At  all  events 
it  was  not  Sander's  invention,  as  Burnet  affirms.  Stapleton  says :  Thomam 
Morum  ex  patre  suo  referentem  audivit  Joannes  Clemens  (Vita  Mori, 
cap.  i). 

f  Stapleton  may  have  learnt  this  from  Mrs.  Clements  or  from  Doroth} 

+  Quem  ego  sermonem  ab  eo  memini  patri  meo  renuntiatum.  The 
words  are  not  in  the  English  version  of  the  History  of  RiclianI  III. 

§  Holt  was  author  of  a  Latin  grammar  called  Lnc  Pucronini  (Foss, 
vi.  203). 


been  founded  by  Henry  VI.  in  1445.  Thence  he  was  trans- 
ferred to  the  household  of  Cardinal  Morton,  Archbishop  of 
Canterbury.  The  households  of  great  ecclesiastics  were  schools 
both  of  learning  and  good  breeding  for  the  sons  of  the  gentry, 
and  even  of  the  higher  nobility.  Many  years  later,  and  long 
after  the  Cardinal's  death,  More  put  the  following  description 
of  his  patron  in  the  mouth  of  Hythloday,  the  supposed  traveller 
to  Utopia  : — 

"  The  Cardinal  was  of  a  middle  stature,  retaining  his  strength 
even  in  advanced  age  ;  his  looks  begot  reverence  rather  than 
fear ;  his  conversation  was  easy,  but  serious  and  grave  ;  he 
sometimes  took  pleasure  to  try  the  force  of  those  that  came 
as  suitors  to  him  upon  business  by  speaking  sharply,  though 
decently,  to  them,  and  by  that  he  discovered  their  spirit  and 
presence  of  mind ;  with  which  he  was  much  delighted  when  it 
did  not  grow  up  to  impudence,  as  bearing  a  great  resemblance 
to  his  own  temper,  and  he  looked  on  such  persons  as  the 
fittest  men  for  affairs.  He  spoke  both  gracefully  and  weightily  ; 
he  was  eminently  skilled  in  the  law,  had  a  vast  understanding, 
and  a  prodigious  memory ;  and  those  excellent  talents  with 
which  nature  had  furnished  him  were  improved  by  study  and 
experience.  When  I  was  in  England  the  king  depended 
much  on  his  counsels,  and  the  Government  seemed  to  be 
chiefly  supported  by  him  ;  for  from  his  youth  he  had  been 
all  along  practised  in  affairs  ;  and,  having  passed  through 
many  traverses  of  fortune,  he  had,  with  great  cost,  acquired  a 
vast  stock  of  wisdom,  which  is  not  soon  lost  when  it  is  pur- 
chased so  dear."  * 

It  must  certainly  be  counted  among  the  special  graces  of 
More  that  his  mind,  so  shrewd  and  inclined  to  satire,  formed 
its  first  impressions  of  the  Church  from  the  frequentation  of  so 
excellent  a  prelate  as  Morton,  rather  than  in  the  household 
of  a  Bainbridge  or   a   Wolsey  ;  for,    though    the    Church    of 

*  Utopia  (Burnet's  translation). 

8  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Jesus  Christ,  as  a  Divine  institution,  is  independent  of  its  earthly 
representatives,  yet  a  mind  early  prejudiced  acquires  with 
difficulty  that  well-balanced  judgment  that  is  able  to  consider 
calmly  good  and  evil,  and  to  assign  each  to  its  proper  source.* 
It  was  also  very  fortunate  for  More  that  Cardinal  Morton 
formed  a  favourable  opinion  of  the  youth  who  had  been  com- 
mitted to  him.  Roper  writes  as  follows:  "Though  More 
were  young  of  years,  yet  would  he  at  Christmas  suddenly 
sometimes  step  in  among  the  players,  and,  never  studying  for 
the  matter,  make  a  part  of  his  own  there  presently  among  them, 
which  made  the  lookers-on  more  sport  than  the  players  beside. t 
In  whose  wit  and  towardness  the  Cardinal  much  delighting, 
would  often  say  of  him  to  the  nobles  that  divers  times  dined 
with  him :  '  This  child  here  waiting  at  the  table,  whoever 
shall  Hve  to  see  it,  will  prove  a  marvellous  man '.  Whereupon, 
for  his  better  furtherance  in  learning,  he  placed  him  at  Oxford." 

*  A  Catholic  writer,  in  the  Dublin  Review  for  June,  1858,  says  that 
*'  a  tone  of  cold  and  sneering  disrespect  towards  the  Holy  See  pervades 
More's  Utopia  ;  and  that  it  is  impossible  not  to  see  that  More  had  im- 
bibed these  ideas  from  Cardinal  Morton's  conversation  ".  As  I  can  find 
no  such  tone  in  More's  Utopia,  it  is  impossible  for  me  to  attribute  it  to 
Morton's  influence. 

t  These  Christmas  plays  were,  no  doubt,  in  English  ;  Sir  Thomas, 
however,  in  his  Utopia,  alludes  to  the  plays  of  Plautus  as  if  they  were 
not  unknown  to  the  English  stage,  probably  in  the  schools  or  universities, 
or  inns  of  court. 



IT  was  probably  in  the  year  1492,  when  he  was  fourteen 
years  old,  that  More  was  sent  to  the  university.  Of  his 
Oxford  career  our  information  is  very  scanty.  Roper 
merely  says  that  Cardinal  Morton  "  placed  him  at  Oxford, 
where,  when  he  was  in  the  Greek  and  Latin  tongues  sufficiently 
instructed,  he  was  then  for  the  study  of  the  law  put  to  an  Inn 
of  Chancery ".  Harpsfield,  an  Oxford  man,  was  able  to  add 
the  length  of  his  stay  at  the  university :  "  For  the  short  time 
of  his  abode,"  he  writes,  "being  not  fully  two  years,  and  for 
his  age,  he  wonderfully  profited  in  the  Latin  and  Greek 
tongues ;  where  if  he  had  settled  and  fixed  himself,  and  run 
his  full  race  in  the  study  of  the  liberal  sciences  and  divinity, 
I  trow  he  would  have  been  the  singular  and  only  spectacle 
of  this  our  time  for  learning".  Cresacre  adds  that  he  was 
placed  at  Canterbury  Hall*  This  hall  had  been  founded  by 
Archbishop  Islip  in  1363,  and  was  intended  principally  for  the 
study  of  the  canon  and  civil  law.  At  the  suppression  it  was 
transferred  by  Henry  to  his  (or  rather  Wolsey's)  great  founda- 
tion of  Christ  Church.  Its  site  is  now  occupied  by  Canter- 
bury Quadrangle  of  that  college. 

It  was  easy  for  the  Cardinal  to  find  him  an  entrance  in  this 
hall.  We  are  not  told  how  far  he  contributed  to  his  main- 
tenance there.  The  life  of  a  scholar,  as  provided  by  the 
foundation,  was  a  hard   one.       More'  placed  it  at  the  lowest 

*  St.  Mary's  Hall  has  been  mentioned  by  others  as  his  residence. 


degree  of  his  experiences.  In  his  address  to  his  family  after 
resigning  the  chancellorship,  he  said  :  "  I  have  been  brought 
up  at  Oxford,  at  an  Inn  of  the  Chancery,  at  Lincoln's  Inn,  and 
also  in  the  King's  Court,  and  so  from  the  least  degree  to  the 
highest ".  If  it  is  true  that  More's  father  was  the  quondam 
butler  of  Lincoln's  Inn,  he  would  be  only  a  young  and  struggling 
barrister,  burdened  with  a  large  family,  at  the  period  of  his 
son's  Oxford  residence. 

Certain  it  is  that  More's  allowance  from  his  father  did  not 
in  any  way  mitigate  the  penury  of  his  life,  which  is  thus 
described  by  Stapleton  :  '*  Grocyn  had  recently  returned  from 
Italy,  and  was  the  first  who  brought  Greek  letters  into  England, 
and  publicly  taught  them  at  Oxford.  From  his  companion, 
Thomas  Linacre,  More  learnt  Greek  at  Oxford,  as  he  himself 
mentions  in  his  epistle  to  Dorpius.*  His  father,  however, 
while  desirous  to  give  his  son  a  liberal  education,  wished  that 
he  should  learn  from  his  earliest  years  to  be  frugal  and  sober, 
and  to  love  nothing  biit  his  studies  and  literature.  For  this 
reason  he  gave  him  the  bare  necessaries,  and  would  not  allow 
him  a  farthing  to  spend  freely.  This  he  carried  out  so  strictly 
that  he  had  not  money  to  mend  his  worn-out  shoes,  without 
asking  it  from  his  father.  More  used  often  to  relate  this  con- 
duct of  his  father,  and  greatly  extolled  it.  '  It  was  thus  '  (he 
would  say)  ^  that  I  indulged  in  no  vice  or  pleasure,  and  spent 
my  time  in  no  vain  or  hurtful  amusements  ;  I  did  not  know 
what  luxury  meant,  and  never  learnt  to  use  money  badly  ;  in  a 
word,  I  loved  and  thought  of  nothing  but  my  studies.'"  These 
words  are  the  more  remarkable  that  More  was  not  defending 
his  treatment  of  his  own  children  by  the  example  of  his  father, 
for  we  shall  see  that  he  could  be  very  generous. 

Erasmus  declares  that  More's  father,  both  while  his  son  was 
at  Oxford  and  afterwards,  treated  him  thus  severely  because  he 

■*•  Quum  ipse  jam  olim  Aristotelis  opus  audirem  Greece,  perlegente 
mihi  atque  interpretante  Linacro. 


saw  him  too  much  addicted  to  literature,*  and  feared  that  he 
might  neglect  liis  legal  studies.  Such  a  testimony  cannot  be 
lightly  set  aside,  since  Erasmus  became  intimate  with  More  in 
his  early  manhood  ;  but  it  is  pushing  the  words  of  Erasmus 
beyond  their  necessary  reach  to  suppose,  as  some  have  done, 
that  John  More  was  unwilling  that  his  son  should  learn  Greek, 
or  that  Thomas  gave  himself  to  this  study  in  distinct  opposition 
to  his  father's  will.  For,  according  to  his  biographers,  his  filial 
piety  and  deference  to  his  father's  wishes  knew  no  bounds,  and 
he  seems  to  have  complied  with  them  fully  by  vigorously  pro- 
secuting his  legal  studies,  and  giving  to  literature  those  hours 
only  which  he  could  save  from  sleep  or  recreation. 

Stapleton  on  this  head  writes  :  "  Throughout  his  whole  life 
he  was  most  reverent  towards  his  father,  so  that  he  neither 
offended  him  in  anything,  nor  took  offence  at  anything  said  or 
done  by  him.  When  he  was  chancellor  he  did  not  hesitate, 
publicly  in  the  palace  of  Westminster,  to  kneel  down  and  ask 
his  father's  blessing,  according  to  the  excellent  custom  of  our 
country.  For  with  us  children  are  wont  both  morning  and 
evening  to  kneel  and  ask  the  blessing  of  both  parents,  though, 
when  grown  up  and  married,  especially  in  the  higher  classes, 
they  discontinue  the  practice,  whereas  More  continued  it." 

Besides  Greek  and  Latin,  he  learned,  in  his  youth,  French, 
music,  arithmetic,  and  geometry,  and  read  every  book  of  history 
he  could  procure.  He  was  fond  of  music,  and  learned  to  play 
on  the  viol,t  as  w^ell  as  on  the  flute. 

If  More's  study  of  Cireek  was  for  the  sake  of  the  treasures  of 
literature  and  philosophy  embodied  in  that  language,  he  studied 
Latin  no  less  for  its  practical  utility.     Latin  was  still  in  a  sense  a 

*  Bonas  literas  a  primis  statim  annis  hauserat.  Juvenis  ad  Grsecas 
literas  ac  philosophiai  studium  sese  applicuit,  adeo  non  opitulante  patre, 
viro  alioqui  prudenti  proboque,  ut  ea  conantem  omni  subsidio  destitueret 
ac  pene  pro  abdicate  haberet,  quod  a  patriis  studiis  desciscere  videretur 
{Epist.  605,  to  be  given  in  full  later  on). 

t  Stapleton,  cap.  2. 

12  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

living  language.  It  was  the  means  of  communication  not  only  in 
the  Church,  but  between  statesmen,  ambassadors,  and  the  learned 
and  cultured  of  every  country.  It  was  necessary  to  write  and 
to  speak  it  with  facility  and  elegance  as  well  as  to  read  it. 
Probably  not  many  days  passed  in  More's  life  in  which  he  was 
not  called  on  to  converse  in  Latin.  His  style  was  greatly 
admired  by  his  critical  contemporaries.  It  was  not  formed 
without  much  labour.  Erasmus,  in  saying  that  More  strove  long 
to  render  it  easy  and  harmonious,*  seems  to  imply  that  at  first 
it  was  somewhat  involved  or  harsh.  It  has  been  called 
Erasmian,  yet  no  one  who  has  a  moderate  acquaintance  with 
the  two  writers  could  mistake  one  for  the  other,  any  more  than 
an  Englishman  at  all  familiar  with  our  literature  could  attribute 
a  page  of  Johnson  to  Addison. 

Richard  Pace,  secretary  of  Latin  letters  to  Henry  VIII.  and 
Dean  of  St.  Paul's,  himself  an  elegant  scholar,  and  a  very  inti- 
mate friend  of  More's,  published  in  15 17  a  short  Latin  treatise 
on  "The  Fruit  to  be  derived  from  Learning".  In  it  he  has  some 
interesting  remarks  on  More's  genius  and  scholarship.  I  trans- 
late a  few^  passages  :  "  Here  I  will  remark  that  no  one  ever  lived 
who  did  not  first  ascertain  the  meaning  of  words,  and  from 
them  gather  the  meaning  of  the  sentences  which  they  compose — 
no  one,  I  say,  with  one  single  exception,  and  that  is  our  own 
Thomas  More.  For  he  is  wont  to  gather  the  force  of  the  words 
from  the  sentences  in  which  they  occur,  especially  in  his  study 
and  translation  of  Greek.  This  is  not  contrary  to  grammar, 
but  above  it,  and  an  instinct  of  genius.  Indeed,  his  genius  is 
more  than  human,  and  his  learning  not  only  eminent,  but  so 
various,  that  there  is  nothing  of  which  he  seems  to  be  ignorant. 
His  eloquence  is  incomparable  and  twofold,  for  he  speaks  with 
the  same  facility  in  Latin  as  in  his  own  language.  His  sense 
of  fun  is  joined  with  perfect  refinement — you  may  call  humour 

*  Diu  luctatus  est  ut  prosam  orationem  redderet  molliorem,  per  omne 
scripti  genus  stylum  exercens  (£/>.  447). 

YOUTH.  13 

his  father,  and  wit  his  mother.*  When  the  matter  requires  it, 
he  can  imitate  a  good  cook,  and  serve  up  the  meat  in  sharp 
sauce.  .  .  .  He  has  declared  open  war  against  such  as  give 
utterance  to  things  that  are  neither  true  nor  probable,  and 
beyond  the  capacity  or  knowledge  of  the  speaker.  Thus  he 
once  heard  two  Scotist  theologians,  men  of  a  certain  importance, 
and  preachers,  seriously  affirm  that  King  Arthur — whom  some 
deny  ever  to  have  been  born,  and  others  ever  to  have  died — 
had  made  himself  a  cloak  of  the  beards  of  the  giants  whom  he 
had  killed  in  battle.  When  More  asked  them  how  that  could 
be,  the  elder  of  the  two,  putting  on  a  grave  countenance,  re- 
plied :  '  The  reason,  my  youth,  is  clear,  for  the  skin  of  a  dead 
man  is  elastic '.  The  other,  hearing  this,  not  only  assented,  but 
admired  the  answer  as  subtle  and  Scotistic.  More  was  but  a 
boy,  but  he  answered :  '  What  you  say  was  hitherto  quite  as 
unknown  to  me  as  it  was  perfectly  well  known  that  one  of  you 
milks  a  he-goat  while  the  other  holds  a  sieve '.f  When  he  saw 
that  they  did  not  understand  his  meaning,  he  laughed  to  him- 
self, and  went  his  way. 

"I  regret  to  say  that  IVIore  has  frequently  the  ill-luck  that  when- 
ever he  says  something  very  learned  or  acute  among  such  digni- 
fied X  fathers  in  reference  to  their  science,  which  is  also  quite  as 
much  his  own,  they  always  oppose  him,  and  call  his  words 
puerile.  It  is  not  that  they  really  think  him  wrong,  or  that  he 
says  anything  puerile,  but  that  they  are  jealous  of  his  mar- 
vellous talent,  and  of  his  knowledge  of  so  many  other  things  of 
which  they  are  ignorant."  § 

*  lam  adeo  non  vulgariter  facetus  et  urbanus,  ut  leporem  ipsum  ei 
patrem  et  facetiam  matrem  fuisse  judices.  Perhaps  Pace  had  in  his  mind 
the  words  of  Job :  "  I  have  said  to  rottenness  :  Thou  art  my  father ;  to 
worms,  my  mother  and  my  sister"  {yob  xvii.  14). 

t  An  allusion  to  an  epigram  of  Martial. 

:J:  Leucomitratos — "white-mitred,"  or  more  probably  "white-girdled," 
in  allusion  to  the  white  cord  of  the  Minorites;  for  there  does  not  seem  to 
be  any  reference  to  bishops.     Perhaps  merely  "white-haired". 

§  Dc  Fructii  qui  ex  doctrina  pcrcipitiir,  p.  82  (ed.   1517). 

14  "^'K    THOMAS    MOKK. 

Of  ^lore's  Latin  writings  much  will  be  said  later  on.  This 
may  be  a  fit  place  to  mention  some  of  his  first  efforts  in  English 
literature.  William  Rastell,  in  the  time  of  Queen  Mary, 
gathered  together  and  reprinted  whatever  he  could  find  of  his 
Uncle  More's  boyish  essays  ;  amongst  them  are  some  English 
verses  that  More  would  gladly  have  let  pass  into  oblivion.  "A 
merry  tale  how  a  serjeant  would  learn  to  play  the  frere."  I 
cannot  say  that  there  is  much  merriment  in  this  piece.  A  line 
or  two  will  be  enough  as  a  specimen  oi  his  rhyming  powers  : — 

A  man  of  law  that  never  saw 

The  ways  to  buy  and  sell, 
Weening  to  rise  by  merchandise — 

I  pray  God  speed  him  well. 
A  merchant  eke  that  will  go  seek, 

Bv  all  the  means  he  may. 
To  fall  in  suit,  till  he  dispute 

His  living  clean  away, 
Pleading  the  law  for  every  straw. 

Shall  prove  a  thrifty  man, 
With  hate  and  strife  ;  but,  by  my  life, 

I  cannot  tell  you  when.* 

He  printed  at  the  beginning  of  a  ''  Book  of  Fortune"  a  large 
number  of  verses  in  the  seven-line  stanzas  then  so  popular. 
Though  they  are  only  the  commonplaces  of  a  clever  boy's 
theme,  yet  they  curiously  represent  the  philosophy  of  his  life, 
and  the  "  Dialogue''  which  he  wrote  in  the  Tower  when  {prepar- 
ing for  death  is  in  many  points  only  a  development  of  this  essay 
of  his  youth.  He  never  at  any  time  of  his  life  lost  sight  of 
what  he  had  written  as  a  boy  about  Fortune's  Wheel  : — 

Alas  !  the  foolish  people  cannot  cease 

Ne  void  her  train,  till  they  the  harm  do  feel — 

About  her  always  busily  they  press  ; 

But,  Lord  !   how  he  doth  think  himself  full  well 

That  may  set  once  his  hand  upon  her  w  heel ; 

He  holdeth  fast,  but  upward  as  he  flieth, 

She  whippeth  her  wheel  about,  and  there  he  lieth. 

*  Always  written  by  More  '•whan,'"  and  doubtless  so  pronounced. 



The  following  sian/a  is  very  striking  and  harmonious,  and 
might  have  been  written  by  Spenser  or  by  Gray  : — 

Fast  by  her  side  cloth  weary  Labour  stand, 
Pale  Fear  also,  and  Sorrow  all  bewept, 
Disdain  and  Hatred  on  that  other  hand 
Kke  restless  watch,  from  sleep  with  travail  kept, 
His  eyes  drowsy,  and  looking  as  he  slept, 
Hefore  her  standeth  Dan<;er  and  Fnvy, 
Flattery,  Deceit,  Mischief  and  Tyranny. 

Among  the  freaks  of  Fortune  was  one  with  which  the  pre- 
ceding reigns  had  made  the  minds  of  men  in  England  but  too 
familiar  :  — 

She  suddenly  enhanceth  them  aloft, 

And  suddenly  mischieveth  all  the  flock  ; 
The  head  that  late  lay  easily  and  full  soft, 

Instead  of  pillows  lieth  after  on  the  block. 

The  r>lock  !  It  is  a  popular  sui)erstition  that  when  a  cold 
shiver  goes  suddenly  over  a  man,  without  any  apparent  cause, 
it  is  because  someone  has  stepped  over  his  future  grave.  Did 
any  shadow  pass  over  the  bright  and  handsome  face  of  young 
More  when  he  wrote  that  terrible  word — the  Block  ?  Or  was  it 
rather  a  halo  tliat  {flayed  for  a  moment  around  his  brow? 

There  is  another  effort  of  his  English  Muse  which  gives 
greater  promise  than  the  preceding  that  he  might,  had  he  given 
himself  to  this  species  of  comjK^sition,  have  anticii)ated  some- 
thing of  the  beauties  of  the  Elizabethan  poets.  It  is  "A  Rueful 
Lamentation  "  on  the  death  of  Queen  Elizabeth — commonly 
called  the  Good — the  wife  of  Henry  ^TI.  She  died  on  nth 
February,  1503.  More  was  just  twenty-hve  years  old.  On 
such  occasions  it  was  customary  for  scholars  to  make  an  offer- 
ing of  verse  at  Court.  The  poet  represents  the  queen  on  her 
death-bed,  taking  her  last  farewell.  Each  stanza  ends  with  the 
words,  "and  lo  !  now  here  I  lie".  The  following  lines  remind 
us  that  the  name  of  Shene  had  lately  been  exchanged  tor  that 

1 6  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

of  Richmond,  in  honour  of  the  king's  mother — Lady  Margaret, 
Countess  of  Richmond — and  that  the  king  was  building  the 
beautiful  chapel  in  Westminster  Abbey  that  still  bears  his 
name  : — 

Where  are  our  castles,  now  where  are  our  towers  ? 
Goodly  Richmond,  soon  art  thou  gone  from  me ; 
At  Westminster  that  costly  work  of  yours, 
Mine  own  dear  lord,  now  shall  I  never  see. 
Almighty  God  vouchsafe  to  grant  that  ye 
For  you  and  your  children  well  may  edify. 
My  palace  builded  is,  and  lo  !  now  here  I  lie. 

After  taking  leave  of  her  husband,  she  thus  addresses  her  chil- 
dren. To  understand  the  allusions,  it  must  be  remembered 
that  Arthur,  the  eldest  son,  had  been  dead  nearly  a  year ;  Mar- 
garet, the  eldest  daughter,  had  been  lately  married  by  proxy  to 
the  King  of  Scotland,  but  had  not  yet  left  England  : — 

Farewell,  my  daughter.  Lady  Margaret, 

God  wot  full  oft  it  grieved  hath  my  mind 

That  ye  should  go  where  we  should  seldom  meet  ; 

Now  am  I  gone,  and  have  left  you  behind. 

O  mortal  folk,  that  we  be  very  blind  ! 

That  we  least  fear,  full  oft  it  is  most  nigh. 

From  you  depart  I  first,  and  lo !  now  here  I  lie. 

Adieu,  Lord  Henry,  my  loving  son,  adieu  ! 
Our  Lord  increase  your  honour  and  estate. 
Adieu,  my  daughter  Mary,  bright  of  hue  ! 
God  make  you  virtuous  wife  and  fortunate.*' 
Adieu,  sweetheart,  my  little  daughter  Kate  ! 
Thou  shalt,  sweet  babe — such  is  thy  destiny — 
Thy  mother  never  know,  for  lo !  now  here  I  lie.  t 

She  then  addresses  her  sisters,  the  youngest  of  whom,  Bridget^ 
was  a  Dominican  nun  at  Dartford  : — 

*  She  was  married  to  Louis  XI L,  King  of  France   and  afterwards  to 
Charles  Brandon,  Duke  of  Suffolk, 
t  This  princess  died  in  her  infancy. 

YOUTH.  17 

Lady  Cecily,  Anne  and  Katharine, 

Farewell,  my  well-beloved  sisters  three  ; 

O  Lady  Bridget !  other  sister  mine, 

Lo  !  here  the  end  of  worldly  vanity  ; 

Now  well  are  ye  that  earthly  folly  flee, 

And  heavenly  thinges  love  and  magnify. 

Farewell,  and  pray  for  me,  for  lo !  now  here  I  lie. 

But  ]\Iore  was  neither  destined  to  rival  Skelton  as  poet- 
laureate  nor  to  become  illustrious  among  our  English  poets. 
His  fame  in  literature  rests  rather  on  his  Latin  epigrams,  and, 
still  more,  on  his  Utopia^  which  must  be  treated  of  when  we 
come  to  the  time  of  their  publication.  But  gifts  and  qualities 
far  higher  than  learning,  wit  or  polished  style  have  made  the 
name  of  More  illustrious ;  and  we  must  now  consider  how  the 
foundations  of  his  noble  life  were  laid  in  early  manhood.  When 
]\Iore  was  a  youth  in  his  father's  house  he  conceived  a  plan  for 
nine  pageants  to  be  executed  in  painting  or  tapestry,  to  repre- 
sent the  history  of  a  human  soul,  and  for  these  pageants  he 
wrote  appropriate  mottoes.  These  have  been  printed,  but  there 
is  a  harshness  in  some  of  the  lines  that  suggests  the  thought  that 
they  may  have  been  inaccurately  worked  on  the  tapestry  or  in- 
accurately copied.  They  are  full  of  interest,  as  bearing  on  the 
history  of  the  young  writer.  Long  before  Shakspere  wrote 
his  Seven  Ages  of  Alan  the  same  line  of  thought  had  been  pur- 
sued both  in  verse  and  delineation,*  More  does  not  confine 
himself  to  this  world.  His  pageants  comprise  both  the  present 
life  and  the  next.  They  are  Childhood,  ALinhood,  Love  (or 
Venus  and  Cupid),  Age,  Death,  Fame,  Time,  and  Eternity, 
and,  lastly,  the  Poet  summing  up  the  whole  and  drawing  the 
moral.     In  the  first  pageant  Childhood  says  : — 

In  play  is  all  my  mind  : 
To  cast  a  coit,  a  cokstele  and  a  ball ; 

*  See  a  treatise  on  the  division  of  man's  life  into  ages,  by  J.  W.  Jones, 
in  The  Arclueologia,  xxxv.  167,  with  illustrations. 


l8  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

A  top  can  I  set,  and  drive  it  in  its  kind. 
But  would  to  God  these  hateful  books  all 
Were  in  a  fire  brent  to  powder  small. 

If  these  words  do  not  well  represent  More's  boyhood,  still  less 
do  the  next  give  a  picture  of  his  youth  : — 

To  hunt  and  hawk,  to  nourish  up  and  feed 

The  greyhound  to  the  course,  the  hawk  to  the  flight. 

And  to  bestride  a  good  and  lusty  steed — 

These  things  become  a  very  man  indeed. 

It  is  easy  to  guess  what  Love  and  Age  and  Death  have  to  say 
for  themselves.  In  the  sixth  pageant  Fame  rebukes  Death's 
proud  boast : — 

O  cruel  Death  !   thy  power  I  confound  ; 
When  thou  a  noble  man  hast  brought  to  ground, 
Maugre  thy  teeth  to  live  cause  him  shall  I, 
Of  people  in  perpetual  memory. 

In  the  seventh,  Time  scoffs  at  this  promise,  since  in  his  pro- 
gress he  will  destroy  the  world  itself,  and  then  Fame  will  be 
mute.  But  Eternity  rebukes  Time,  which  is  but  the  revolution 
of  sun  and  moon.  In  the  last  pageant  the  poet  writes  in  Latin. 
Evidently  God  only  is  the  everlasting  Good ;  let  us  distrust 
what  is  fleeting  and  love  God  alone  : — 

Qui  dabit  a;ternam  nobis  pro  munere  vitam 
In  permansuro  ponite  vota  Deo. 

In  these  verses  the  youth  expressed  what  proved  to  be  the 
philosophy  of  his  whole  life. 



ON  leaving  Oxford,  More  was  placed  by  his  father  at  New 
Inn,  an  Inn  of  Chancery  dependent  on  Lincoln's  Inn. 
Here  he  was  to  acquire  the  learning  of  writs  and  pro- 
cedure before  studying  the  more  abstruse   branches  of  legal 
science  at  Lincoln's  Inn.* 

In  the  universities  of  Oxford  and  Cambridge  Canon  Law 
as  well  as  Roman  Civil  Law  were  studied,  while  little  atten- 
tion was  given  to  English  (or  Municipal)  Law.  This  is  divided 
into  Common  Law  and  Equity,  the  former  of  which  guides 
and  governs  the  Common  Law  Courts,  and  the  latter  the  Court 
of  Chancery.  Hence,  since  the  Law  Courts  sat  principally  at 
Westminster,  the  lawyers  who  there  pleaded  set  up  at  an  early 
period  hostels  or  inns  {hospitid)  in  London,  not  only  as  cham- 
bers and  residences,  but  as  places  of  study  and  training.  In 
the  middle  of  the  fourteenth  century,  after  the  suppression  of 
the  Knights  Templars,  a  more  convenient  site  was  procured, 
nearer  to  Westminster,  and  away  from  the  noise  of  the  city  of 
London.  This  is  still  the  lawyers'  quarter.  In  the  time  of  Sir 
Thomas  More  there  were  four  Inns  of  Court — the  Inner  Temple, 
Middle  Temple,  Lincoln's  Inn,  and  Gray's  Inn,  and  ten  Inns 
of  Chancery  dependent  on  the  Inns  of  Court.f 

The  reader  may  be  interested  to  know  that  the  great  hall  of 

*  Lord  Campbell. 

t  The  Inns  of  Chancery  are  now  only  used  as  chambers,  and  are  princi- 
pally inhabited  by  solicitors  and  attorneys. 

20  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Lincoln's  Inn  was  built  in  1506.  Over  the  gateway  in  Chancery 
Lane  is  the  date  15 18.  These,  therefore^  were  seen  by  More, 
though  built  when  he  had  ceased  to  reside.  Lord  Campbell 
writes :  "  With  us  a  sufficient  knowledge  of  jurisprudence  is 
supposed  to  be  gained  by  eating  a  certain  number  of  dinners  in 
the  hall  of  one  of  the  Inns  of  Court,  whereby  men  are  often 
called  to  the  bar  wholly  ignorant  of  their  profession ;  and  being 
pushed  on  by  favour  or  accident,  or  native  vigour  of  mind,  they 
are  sometimes  placed  in  high  judicial  situations,  having  no 
acquaintance  with  law  beyond  what  they  may  have  picked  up 
as  practitioners  at  the  bar.*  Then,  the  Inns  of  Court  and 
Chancery  presented  the  discipline  of  a  well  constituted  uni- 
versity ;  and,  through  professors,  under  the  name  of  '  readers,' 
and  exercises  under  the  name  of  '  mootings,'  law  was  syste- 
matically taught,  and  efficient  tests  of  proficiency  were  applied 
before  the  degree  of  barrister  was  conferred,  entitling  the 
aspirant  to  practise  as  an  advocate. "+ 

These  inns  were  not  endowed  like  the  colleges  of  the 
universities.  The  students  in  the  Inns  of  Chancery,  called 
apprenticii  simply,  were  often  poor  enough,  but  those  of  the 
Inns  of  Courts,  called  appi'enticii  nobiliores,  were  expected  to 
be  able  to  spend  20  marks  a  year  (about  ;£i3),  a  considerable 
sum  in  those  days.  Roper  (himself  a  lawyer)  tells  us  that  his 
uncle  "was  admitted  to  Lincoln's  Inn  with  very  small  allowance, 
continuing  there  his  study  until  he  was  made  and  accounted 
a  worthy  '  utter  barrister ' ".  He  was  admitted  into  the  Society 
of  Lincoln's  Inn  as  a  student  on  the  12th  February,  1496, 
being  then  just  eighteen  years  old,  and  received  certain  dispen- 
sations at  the  instance  of  his  father.!  The  constitution  and 
mode  of  procedure  of  the  Inns  in  former  times  is  thus  described 

*  Examinations  have  been  instituted  since  Lord  Campbell  wrote. 

"Wife  of  Move. 

J  Thomas  More  admissus  est  in  Societ.  12  die  Feb.  a°  supra  dicto 
[1496]  et  pardonat.  est  quatuor  vacaciones  ad  instantiam  Johis  More 
patris  sui  (Entry  in  the  Register  copied  by  Mr.  Foss). 

CHOICE    OF    A    STATE    OF    LIFE.  21 

by  our  legal  antiquarians  :  "  In  England  it  is  said  that  the  word 
"  barrister  "  arose  from  the  arrangement  of  the  halls  of  the 
different  Inns  of  Court.*  The  benchers  and  readers,  being 
the  superiors  of  each  house,  occupied  on  public  occasions  of 
assembly  the  upper  end  of  the  hall,  which  was  raised  on  a  dais, 
and  separated  from  the  rest  of  the  building  by  a  bar.  The  next 
in  degree  were  the  utter  barristers,  who,  after  they  had  attained 
a  certain  standing,  were  called  from  the  body  of  the  hall  to  the 
bar  {i.e.,  to  the  first  place  outside  the  bar),  for  the  purpose  of 
taking  a  principal  part  in  the  mootifigs  or  exercises  of  the  house. 
The  other  members  of- the  inn  took  their  places  nearer  to  the 
centre  of  the  hall,  and  from  this  manner  of  distribution  appear 
to  have  been  called  inner  barristers .+  The  degree  of  utter 
barrister  did  not  originally  communicate  any  authority  to  plead 
in  courts  of  justice. 

"The  benchers  annually  chose  from  their  own  body  two 
readers,  whose  duty  it  was  to  read  openly  to  the  Society  in  their 
public  hall,  at  least  twice  in  the  year.  On  these  occasions, 
which  were  observed  with  great  solemnity,  the  reader  selected 
some  statute,  which  he  made  the  subject  of  formal  examination 
and  discussion.  Questions  were  then  debated  by  the  utter 
barristers  with  the  reader,  after  which  the  judges  and  Serjeants, 
several  of  whom  were  usually  present,  pronounced  their  opinions 
separately  upon  the  point  that  had  been  raised.  The  process 
of  mooting  in  the  Inns  of  Courts  differed  considerably  from 
reading.  On  these  occasions  the  reader  of  the  inn  for  the 
time  being,  with  two  or  more  benchers,  presided  in  the  open 
hall.  On  each  side  of  the  bench  table  were  two  inner 
barristers,  who  declared  in  law  French  some  kind  of  action, 
previously  devised  by  them,  and  which  always  contained  some 

*  In  France  the  word  "  barreau  "  has  a  different  origin.  The  pleader  in 
the  court  of  justice  was  protected  by  a  bar  of  wood  or  iron  from  the  press 
of  the  crowd  ;  so  also  we  speak  of  our  "  prisoner  at  the  bar  ". 

t  The  distinction  no  longer  exists. 

2  2  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

nice  and  doubtful  points  of  law,  the  one  stating  the  case  for  the 
plaintiff  and  the  other  the  case  for  the  defendant.  The  points 
of  law  arising  in  this  fictitious  case  were  then  argued  by  two 
utter  barristers,  after  which  the  reader  and  the  benchers  closed 
the  proceedings  by  declaring  their  opinions  separately."* 

It  seemed  necessary  to  transcribe  thus  much  for  the  intelli- 
gence of  what  is  said  about  More's  legal  career  by  his  biographers. 
We  do  not  know  the  date  of  his  call  to  the  outer  bar,  nor  when 
he  was  made  a  bencher.  His  legal  education,  however,  lasted 
several  years.  Harpsfield  says:  "Utter  barristers  were  not 
commonly  made  then  but  after  many  years'  study.  But  this 
man's  speedy  and  yet  substantial  profiting  was  such,  that  he 
enjoyed  some  prerogative  of  time." 

He  acquired  so  great  a  reputation,  that  the  governors  of  the 
Society  of  Lincoln's  Inn  appointed  him  "reader"  or  lecturer 
on  the  science  of  law  at  Furnivall's  Inn,  one  of  the  Inns  of 
Chancery  dependent  on  their  house ;  and  his  lectures  were  so 
highly  esteemed  that  his  appointment  was  renewed  three 
successive  years,  t 

Another  course  of  lectures  mentioned  by  his  biographers 
seems  to  have  had  no  connection  with  his  profession.  He 
gave  lectures  (no  doubt  in  Latin)  on  the  great  work  of  St. 
Augustine  called  The  City  of  God.  These  lectures  were  delivered 
in  the  Church  of  St.  Lawrence,  in  the  Old  Jewry  in  London, 
and  they  were  attended  by  the  most  learned  men,  among  whom 
is  especially  mentioned  his  old  Greek  preceptor  Grocyn.;]:     It 

*  Bohn's  Standard  Library  Cyclopadia  of  Political  Ktioivlcdgc,  Art. 
Barrister.  In  one  of  his  latest  works,  The  Debcllacion  of  Salem  v. 
Bysance,  written  in  1533,  More  writes:  "  I  was  waxen  with  the  reading 
of  his  answer  very  merry,  and  waxen  methought  a  young  man  again, 
and  seemed  set  at  a  vacation  mote  with  him  in  some  Inn  of  Chancery, 
because  of  his  proper  cases  of  law  "  {English  Works,  p.  945). 

t  Roper  says,  "  Three  years  and  more  ". 

X  Grocyn  had  been  lecturing  about  that  time  in  St.  Paul's  (see 
Seebohm,  p.  go).  But  Roper  specially  mentions  him  among  More's 
auditors  and  admirers.  Had  Stapleton  authority  for  saying  that  Grocyn's 
lectures  were  almost  deserted  for  those  of  More  ? 

CHOICE    OF    A    STATE    OF    LIFE.  23 

is  probable,  indeed,  that  they  were  dehvered  at  his  desire,  as 
he  was  then  the  rector  of  that  church.  Though  there  are  many 
examples  of  lay-preaching  in  the  history  of  the  Church,  More's 
lectures  had  in  no  sense  the  character  of  sermons,  nor  were 
they  lectures  in  theology,  but  in  history  and  the  Divine  philo- 
sophy of  history.  They  must  have  been  elaborated  with  great 
care  to  be  read  before  such  an  audience.  Alas  !  a  beautiful 
and  almost  unique  work  has  utterly  perished.  Not  a  fragment 
of  these  lectures  has  come  down  to  us. 

The  subject  he  had  chosen  confirms  what  Erasmus  says  :  that 
More's  legal  studies  did  not  prevent  him  from  following  his 
bent  for  literature ;  nor  did  either  law  or  letters  turn  his 
thoughts  from  heavenly  things.  He  read  the  fathers  and 
ecclesiastical  writers  carefully,  and  they  made  so  deep  an  im- 
pression on  him,  that  he  hesitated  for  a  considerable  time  about 
pursuing  the  career  on  which  he  had  entered,  and  debated 
whether  he  should  not  rather  become  a  priest  or  a  religious. 

No  part  of  More's  life  has  been  so  much  misunderstood  as 
this.  It  will  be  necessary  to  disentangle  modern  comments 
from  the  original  statements  of  those  who  had  means  of  know- 
ing the  truth.  The  words  of  Erasmus,  his  intimate  friend  and 
confidant,  are  these  :  "  Meanwhile  he  applied  his  whole 
mind  to  exercises  of  piety,  looking  to  and  pondering  on  the 
priesthood  in  vigils,  fasts,  and  prayers,  and  similar  austerities. 
In  which  matter  he  proved  himself  far  more  prudent  than  most 
candidates,  who  thrust  themselves  rashly  into  that  arduous  pro- 
fession, without  any  previous  trial  of  their  powers.  The  one 
thing  that  prevented  him  from  giving  himself  to  that  kind  of 
life  was  that  he  could  not  shake  off  the  desire  of  the  married 
state.  He  chose,  therefore,  to  be  a  chaste  husband  rather  than 
an  impure  priest.  "  * 

Mr.  Seebohm's  commentary  on  this  last  phrase  is  as  follows  ; 
"  That  he  did  turn  iti  disgust  from  the  impurity  of  the  cloister 

*  Erasm.,  Ep.  447. 

24  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

to  the  better  chances  which  he  thought  the  world  offered  of 
hving  a  chaste  and  useful  life,  we  know  from  Erasmus".* 
Where  does  Erasmus  say  or  hint  any  such  thing?  His  words 
do  not  imply  that  in  those  days  most  priests  were  impure,  any 
more  than  that  most  husbands  were  chaste.  He  merely  says 
that  Thomas  More  feared  for  himself,  lest,  perhaps,  he  might 
become  an  impure  priest,  not  having  the  gift  of  perfect  chastity, 
whereas  he  had  good  hope  of  living  as  a  chaste  husband.  Eras- 
mus has  not  a  word  of  JMore's  turning  with  disgust  from  anything, 
but,  on  the  contrary,  he  implies  that  he  turned  with  regret  from 
a  state  which  he  loved  and  reverenced,  but  to  which  he  feared 
to  aspire. 

Among  the  Jews  "  the  fearful  and  faint-hearted  "  were  ex- 
empt from  military  service. f  Suppose,  then,  that  someone, 
after  due  deliberation,  had  claimed  this  exemption ;  and  that 
his  biographer,  wishing  to  extol  his  prudence,  in  contrast  with 
the  vainglorious  rashness  of  others,  had  recorded  that  "  he 
preferred  to  remain  a  respectable  citizen  rather  than  to  become 
a  cowardly  soldier".  What  should  we  think  of  some  modern 
Jew-hating  writer,  who  should  interpret  this  to  mean,  that  "he 
turned  with  disgust  from  the  cowardice  of  the  army  to  the 
better  chance  presented  to  him  of  living  an  honourable  life 
under  his  own  vine  and  fig-tree,"  and  on  such  grounds  should 
go  on  to  declaim  against  the  poltroonery  of  the  army  of  the 
Hebrews  ? 

Further  on  Mr.  Seebohm  says  :  *'  More  married  .  .  .  and 
gave  up  for  ever  all  longings  for  monastic  life  ".  %  This  is,  of 
course,  true  as  regards  effectual  longings,  or  injudicious  and  un- 
seasonable longings  ;  but,  taken  in  what  is  apparently  Mr.  See- 
bohm's  meaning — that  More  looked  on  himself  as  having 
escaped  from  a  delusion  and  chosen  the  nobler  part — the  words 
are   in   curious  contradiction   with   More's  own   words   to   his 

*  Oxford  Reformers,  p.  151.  t  Dent.  xx.  8. 

X  Oxford  Reformers,  p.  160. 

CHOICE    OF    A    STATE    OF    LIFE.  25 

daughter,  from  which  we  find  that,  to  the  end  of  his  hfe,  he 
never  lost  his  longing  for  that  state  which  he  had  sorrowfully 
renounced  in  youth.  When  Margaret  visited  him  in  the 
Tower,  he  said  to  her :  "  I  believe,  Meg,  that  they  that  have 
put  me  here  ween  they  have  done  me  a  high  displeasure,  but  I 
assure  thee  on  my  faith,  mine  own  good  daughter,  if  it  had  not 
been  for  my  wife  and  ye  that  be  my  children,  I  would  not  have 
failed  long  ere  this  to  have  closed  myself  in  as  strait  a  room, 
and  straiter,  too.*  Methinketh  God  maketh  me  a  wanton, 
and  setteth  me  on  His  lap,  and  dandleth  me  ; "  so  delighted 
was  he  to  realise  in  his  prison  his  old  ideal  of  an  austere  and 
contemplative  life.t 

Mr.  Seebohm,  recurring  to  the  same  idea  elsewhere,  says  : 
'•  What  would  have  happened  to  More  had  he  been  left  alone 
with  misadvising  friends — whether  the  cloister  would  have  re- 
ceived him,  as  it  did  his  friend,  Whitford,  afterwards,  to  be 
another  '■wretch  of  Sion' — none  can  tell.  Happily  for  him,  it 
was  at  this  critical  moment  that  Colet  came  up  to  London.";}: 
These  words  seem  to  imply  that  Whitford,  a  Brigittine  monk 
of  Sion,  near  Isle  worth,  who,  in  his  many  ascetical  books, 
called  himself  "  The  Wretch,"  implied  thereby  that  he  was 
disappointed  and  wretched  in  the  modern  sense  of  the  word. 
Nothing  can  be  farther  from  fact.  His  religious  life  was  most 
happy :  he  was  one  of  the  few  faithful  against  all  Henry's 
menaces,  and  after  the  suppression,  he  persevered  for  many 
years,  and  till  the  end,  in  a  mortified,  prayerful,  and  solitary, 
but  cheerful  life.  §     If,  then,  we  are  to  conjecture  what  would 

*  I  may  mention  it,  as  among  the  curiosities  of  literature,  that  Dr. 
Warner  thinks  More  is  here  speaking  of  the  grave,  and  that  he  meant 
that  he  would  have  committed  suicide  but  for  his  wife  and  children  ! 

t  Margaret  related  this  conversation  to  her  husband,  Roper,  who  has 
recorded  it. 

X  Oxford  Reformers,  p.  147. 

§  See  his  biography  in  Dom  Raynal's  ed.  of  Whitford's  translation 
of  the  FolloK'iiiir  of  Clirist. 

26  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

have  been  the  fate  of  More  had  he  entered  the  cloister,  it  is 
not  rash  to  think  that  he  might  have  become  a  worthy  colleague 
of  his  friend,  Whitford,  as  a  defender  of  the  faith  by  his  pen, 
and  a  confessor  of  it  by  his  holy  life  ;  or  he  might  have  been 
associated  in  martyrdom  with  another  monk  of  the  same  house, 
Blessed  Reginald  or  Reynolds,  a  man  of  the  deepest  learning 
and  of  incomparable  sanctity,  who  was  also  one  of  his  friends, 
and  whose  glorious  death  More  looked  on  as  the  crown  of  his 
monastic  virtues.*  And,  had  he  joined  the  Carthusians,  we 
should  probably  be  now  honouring  his  name  with  the  glorious 
band  of  Carthusians,  victims  of  Henry's  tyranny.  With  the 
Franciscans  he  would  have  stood  with  Peto  and  Elstow,  or 
died  with  Forest.  His  name,  however,  was  to  stand  apart  in 
a  glory  quite  distinct. 

Another  of  More's  modern  biographers,  Lord  Campbell, 
after  relating  his  penances  and  deliberations  as  to  becoming  a 
Franciscan  or  Carthusian,  says  :  "  He  found  these  (the  pen- 
ances) after  a  time  not  edifying  to  his  piety,  and  he,  a  rigid 
Roman  Catholic,  doubted  the  advantages  supposed  to  be  con- 
ferred on  religion  by  the  monastic  orders,  which  a  certain  sec- 
tion of  professing  Protestants  are  now  so  eager  to  re-establish  ". 

It  was  unworthy  of  Lord  Chancellor  Campbell,  in  writing 
the  life  of  another  Lord  Chancellor,  to  pen  a  sentence,  with  a 
controversial  purpose,  for  which  there  is  not,  either  in  the 
works  of  More  or  in  any  of  his  early  biographers,  the  very 
slightest  authority,  and  which  may  be  refuted  by  innumerable 
passages  in  his  printed  books.       The  very  first  published  by 

*  Blessed  Reynolds  of  St.  John's  College,  Cambridge,  was  distinguished 
as  a  scholar  in  Latin,  Greek,  and  Hebrew.  He  shed  his  blood  for  the 
faith  \\ith  the  Carthusians  on  4th  May,  1535,  at  Tyburn.  Erasmus,  who 
knew  him,  says  he  was  vii'  angelica  vnltn  ct  aiigelico  spirifii,  sanique 
judicii  (Letter  on  deaths  of  More  and  Fisher).  Cardinal  Pole  learnt 
from  an  eye-witness  that  such  was  the  joy  of  his  countenance  when  he 
placed  his  head  in  the  fatal  noose,  that  you  would  think  it  was  the  golden 
chain  of  knighthood  {Dc  Unit.  EccL). 

CHOICE    OF    A    STATE    OF    LIFE.  2^ 

him  after  his  marriage  was  the  Life  of  Pico,  Cou7it  of  Mirandola. 
In  many  respects,  More  took  this  extraordinary  man  as  his 
model,  and  reproduced  his  virtues  as  well  as  his  talents.  Of 
Pico's  austerities  he  writes  :  "  We  know  many  men  which  (as 
St.  Jerome  saith)  put  forth  their  hand  to  poor  folk,  but  with 
the  pleasures  of  the  flesh  they  be  overcome ;  but  he  many 
days,  and,  namely,  those  days  which  represent  unto  us  the 
passion  and  death  that  Christ  suffered  for  our  sake,  beat  and 
scourged  his  own  flesh  in  the  contemplation  of  that  great  bene- 
fit, and  for  cleansing  of  his  old  offences.  He  was  of  cheer 
always  merry,  of  so  benign  a  nature  that  he  was  never  troubled 
with  anger,"  etc.  Surely  the  man  who  wrote  this,  and  imitated 
it  to  the  letter,  had  not  discovered  that  austerity  was  super- 

Of  Pico's  love  of  God  More  wrote  :  "  Of  outward  observances 
he  gave  no  very  great  force.  We  speak  not  of  those  obser- 
vances which  the  Church  commandeth,  for  in  those  he  was 
diligent ;  but  we  speak  of  those  ceremonies  which  folk  bring 
up,  setting  the  very  service  of  God  aside,  who  is  (as  Christ 
saith)  to  be  worshipped  in  spirit  and  in  truth.  But  in  the  in- 
ward affections  of  the  mind  he  cleaved  to  God  with  very  fervent 
love  and  devotion.  .  .  .  '  Nephew,'  said  he  (on  one  occasion), 
'  this  will  I  show  thee ;  I  warn  thee  keep  it  secret.  The  sub- 
stance that  I  have  left,  after  certain  books  of  mine  finished,  I 
intend  to  give  out  to  poor  people,  and  fencing  myself  with  the 
crucifix,  barefoot  walking  about  the  world,  in  every  town  and 
castle  I  purpose  to  preach  of  Christ.'  Afterwards,  as  I  under- 
stand, by  the  special  commandment  of  God,  he  changed  that 
purpose  and  appointed  to  profess  himself  in  the  Order  of  Friars 
Preachers."  Could  More  have  written  thus  or  chosen  these 
words  for  translation,  had  he  himself  turned  in  disgust  from  the 
impurity  of  the  cloister,  as  Mr.  Seebohm  assures  us;  or  come  to 
doubt  the  advantages  conferred  on  religion  by  the  monastic 
orders,  as  l.ord  Campbell  afiirms  ? 

It   would   be  easy   to   (juote   much   stronger  testimonies  to 

28  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

More's  esteem  and  love  of  religious  orders  from  his  later 
writings.  But  as  it  is  thought  by  some  that  there  was  a  re- 
action in  his  soul  in  favour  of  the  Church  on  account  of  the 
violence  of  the  Lutherans,  I  have  preferred  the  above  passages, 
taken  from  a  work  published  by  More  in  15  lo,  and  probably 
composed  or  translated  by  him  several  years  before.  In  the 
same  book  More  gives  an  account  of  Savonarola's  sermon  at 
the  death  of  Pico.  More  sj^eaks  of  Jerome  Savonarola  as  "  a 
Friar-Preacher  of  Ferrara,  a  man  as  well  in  cunning  [i.e.,  learning] 
as  holiness  of  living  most  famous  ".  This  Friar  Jerome,  after 
great  eulogy  of  Pico,  had  told  the  people  that  it  had  been 
revealed  to  him  that  his  friend  was  in  purgatory  for  his  delay 
in  entering  a  religious  order.  "  Howbeit,  not  being  kind  [i.e.y 
grateful]  enough  for  so  great  benefices  of  God,  or  called  back 
by  the  tenderness  of  his  flesh  (as  he  was  a  man  of  delicate 
complexion),  he  shrank  from  the  labour ;  or,  thinking,  happily, 
that  the  religion  had  no  need  of  him,*  deferred  it  for  a  time. 
Howbeit  this  I  speak  only  by  conjecture.  But  for  this  delay  I 
threatened  him  two  years  together  that  he  would  be  punished 
if  he  forslothed  that  purpose  which  Our  Lord  had  put  in  his 

It  is  almost  incredible  that  Mr.  Seebohm  could,  after  reading 
the  above,  have  written  the  following  lines :  "  Pico's  Works  in 
More's  translation  present  to  the  mind  a  type  of  Christianity  so 
opposite  to  the  ceremonial  and  external  religion  of  the  monks, 
that  one  may  well  cease  to  wonder  that  More,  having  caught 
the  spirit  of  Pico's  rehgion,  could  no  longer  entertain  any  notion 
of  becoming  a  Carthusian  brother ".  f  With  the  writings  of 
Dionysius,  the  Carthusian,  accessible  to  him,  of  Thomas 
a  Kempis,  or  even  of  Whitford,  the  wretch  of  Sion,  Mr.  See- 

*  The  Latin  has  arbitratiis  ejus  opera  religioncm  indigcrc — "  that  re- 
ligion required  his  services,"  i.e.,  the  welfare  of  religion  in  the  world. 
More  puts  in  a  negative,  and  takes  the  word  religion  technically,  i.e., 
the  state  of  religion,  or  the  Dominican  Order. 

t  Oxford  Reformers,  p.  153. 

CHOICE    OF    A    STATE    OF    LIFE.  29 

bohm  must  be  indeed  mastered  by  prejudice  to  sneer  at  the 
external  religion  of  the  monks,  and  contrast  it  with  solid  piety. 
In  any  case,  according  to  More's  views  of  the  Gospel,  the 
worship  of  God  in  spirit  and  in  truth  was  drawing  on  Pico  to 
the  religious  state  when  he  died. 

How  was  it,  then,  it  will  l^e  asked,  that,  with  all  More's 
admiration  for  the  religious  state,  and  attraction  towards  it,  he 
still  resolved  finally  not  to  embrace  it  ?  It  was  because  he  had 
not  that  indication  of  (jod's  vocation  which  he  supposes  Pico 
to  have  received.  Erasmus  told  the  truth  somewhat  bluntly, 
as  he  heard  it  from  More  himself:  he  feared  to  become  an  im- 
pure priest,  and  determined  to  become  a  chaste  husband. 
This  was  a  matter  for  More  himself  and  his  confessor,  and  is 
one  that  scarcely  admits  of  our  discussion.  It  would  seem 
however,  from  Stapleton's  words,  that  More  would  often  say  in 
later  life  that  he  had  exaggerated  the  difficulties  of  a  life  of 
celibacy.  His  decision  was  at  least  guided  by  perfect  humility, 
and  not  by  the  insane  pride  and  contempt  of  others  with  which 
some  of  his  modern  biographers  would  burden  him.* 

Even  Sir  James  Mackintosh,  whose  biography  of  More  is 
distinguished  both  by  candour  and  insight,  has  not  disentangled 
himself  from  Protestant  prejudices  in  writing  on  this  episode  of 

*  Those  who  wish  to  weigh  this  matter  may  find  the  materials  in  the 
following  passages :  Cum  aetas  ferret  non  abhorruit  (Morus)  a  puellarum 
amoribus,  sed  citra  infamiam,  et  sic  ut  oblatis  magis  frueretur  quam 
captatis,  et  animo  mutuo  caperetur  potius  quam  coitu  [Erasiiiiis  ad 

Meditabatur  adolescens  sacerdotium  cum  suo  Lilio.  Religionis  etiam 
propositum  ardenter  desiderans,  Minoritarum  institutum  arripere  cogita- 
bat.  Sed  quum  exercitiis  illis  pradictis  adhibitis,  motus  carnis  qui  in 
juventutis  flore  et  ardore  accidere  solent,  evincere  non  posse  sibi  videre- 
tur,  uxorem  ducere  instituit.  Solebat  h^ec  ille  postea  narrare  non  sine 
magna  animi  tristitia  et  mcerore  ;  dicebatque  multo  esse  facilius  legem 
carnis  in  coelibatu  vincere  quam  in  matrimonio.  Quod  sane  Apostolicis 
illis  verbis  conforme  est:  Tribulationem  tamen  carnis  habebunt  hujus- 
modi  (Stapleton,  T.  Mori  Vita,  cap.  2). 

30  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

his  life.  "The  same  afifectionate  disposition,"  he  says, 
"  which  had  driven  More  towards  the  visions  and,  strange 
as  it  may  seem,  to  the  austerities  of  the  monks,  now  sought  a 
more  natural  element."  What  word  of  More's,  what  word  of 
any  of  his  biographers,  can  have  suggested  that  More  was 
either  driven  or  drawn  towards  visions  ?  There  are  doubtless 
visions  sent  by  God,  as  every  reader  of  the  Old  or  the  New 
Testament  must  know — St.  Peter,  on  the  day  of  Pentecost, 
explained  that  a  new  era  had  begun,  one  of  the  characteris- 
tics of  which  should  be  that  "young  men  should  see  visions".* 
Yet  the  desire  to  see  visions  has  never  been  counted  among 
the  gifts  of  the  Holy  Ghost,  and  Sir  Thomas  More  was  the 
last  to  covet  them.  His  passion  for  austerities,  on  the  other 
hand,  was  a  real  one,  and  survived  his  marriage,  though  it  was 
controlled  by  discretion. 

Sir  James  also  writes  :  "  He  soon  learnt,  by  self-examina- 
tion, his  unfitness  for  the  priesthood,  and  relinquished  his 
project  of  taking  orders,  in  words  which  should  have  warned 
his  church  against  the  imposition  of  unnatural  self-denial  on 
vast  multitudes  and  successive  generations  of  men ".  The 
words  alluded  to  are  no  doubt  those  of  Erasmus,  but  even  if 
they  express  More's  view,  that  certainly  involved  no  condemna- 
tion of  the  discipline  of  celibacy,  which  More  has  warmly 
defended  in  more  than  one  treatise.  His  prudent  conduct  is 
a  warning  to  bishops  "  not  to  impose  hands  lightly,"  and  to 
candidates  "  to  consider  again  and  again  the  work  they 
undertake  and  the  burden  laid  upon  them  ".  f 

Perhaps  on  the  subject  of  More's  austerities  and  vocation, 
some  will  be  better  disposed  to  listen  to  the  words  of  a 
married  man.  I  will,  therefore,  let  his  great-grandson,  Cresacre 
More,  relate  with  his  own  reflections  the  facts  that  he  had 
gathered  from  Stapleton  :  "When  he  was  about  eighteen  or 
twenty  years  old,  finding  his  body,  by  reason  of  his  years,  most 

*  Acts  ii.  17.  t  Words  of  the  Pontifical. 

CHOICE    OF    A    STATE    OF    LIFE.  3I 

rebellious,  he  sought  diligently  to  tame  his  unbridled  con- 
cupiscence by  wonderful  works  of  mortification.  He  used 
oftentimes  to  wear  a  sharp  shirt  of  hair  next  his  skin,  which 
he  never  left  off  wholly — no,  not  when  he  was  Lord  Chancellor 
of  England.  .  .  .  He  used  also  much  fasting  and  watching, 
lying  often  either  upon  the  bare  ground  or  upon  some  bench, 
or  laying  some  log  under  his  head,  allotting  himself  but  four  or 
five  hours  in  a  night  at  the  most  for  his  sleep,  imagining,  with 
the  holy  saints  of  Christ's  Church,  that  his  body  was  to  be 
used  like  an  ass,  with  strokes  and  hard  fare,  lest  provender 
might  prick  it,  and  so  bring  his  soul  like  a  headlong  jade  into 
the  bottomless  pit  of  hell.  For  chastity,  especially  in  youth, 
is  a  lingering  martyrdom,  and  these  are  the  best  means  to 
preserve  her  from  the  dangerous  gulf  of  evil  custom.  But  he 
is  the  best  soldier  in  this  fight  that  can  run  fastest  away  from 
himself,  this  victory  being  hardly  gotten  with  striving. 

"He  had  inured  himself  to  straightness  that  he  might  the 
better  enter  the  narrow  gate  of  heaven,  which  is  not  got  with 
ease  ;  sed  violejiti  ?-apiu?it  ilbid—  that  is  to  sa)',  they  that  are 
boisterous  against  themselves  bear  it  away  by  force.  For 
this  cause  he  lived  for  four  years  amongst  the  Carthusians, 
dwelling  near  the  Charterhouse,  frequenting  daily  their  spiritual 
exercises,  but  without  any  vow.  He  had  an  earnest  desire 
also  to  be  a  Franciscan  friar,  that  he  might  serve  God  in  a 
state  of  perfection  ;  but,  finding  that  at  that  time  religious  men 
in  England  had  somewhat  degenerated  from  their  ancient 
strictness  and  fervour  of  spirit,  he  altered  his  mind.  * 

*  The  relaxation,  not  the  immorality,  of  the  religious  orders  is  here 
assigned  by  Cresacre  as  the  reason  of  his  ancestor's  decision  ;  but 
Erasmus  says  that  his  one  and  only  obstacle  was  in  himself.  In  fact, 
there  was  no  such  paucity  of  fervent  religious  among  the  Carthusians 
and  the  Observant  Franciscans — the  two  orders  to  which  he  had  been 
attracted — as  to  give  rise  to  any  difficulty  on  that  score.  Cresacre  has 
put  down  as  a  fact  what  Stapleton  merely  advanced  as  a  conjecture.  In 
this  he  has  been  imitated  by  Mr.  Walter.    But  Mr.  Seebohm  is  not  justified 

32  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

"  He  had  also  after  that,  together  with  his  faithful  companion, 
Lilly,  a  purpose  to  be  a  priest,  yet  God  had  allotted  him  for 
another  estate,  not  to  live  solitary,  but  that  he  might  be  a 
pattern  to  married  men  :  how  they  should  carefully  bring  up 
their  children,  how  dearly  they  should  love  their  wives,  how 
they  should  employ  their  endeavour  wholly  for  the  good  of 
their  country,  yet  excellently  perform  the  virtues  of  religious  men, 
as  piety,  charity,  humility,  obedience  and  conjugal  chastity." 

The  subject  that  has  been  under  discussion  in  this  chapter 
makes  it  opportune  to  ask  what  was  the  attitude  of  More  to- 
wards the  priesthood  during  the  rest  of  his  life.  One  who  has 
been  disenchanted  in  his  ideal,  or  disappointed  in  his  aspira- 
tions, often  looks  with  disgust  on  his  shattered  idol,  and  with 
anger  on  his  wasted  enthusiasm.  We  find  nothing  whatever  of 
this  in  More.  He  forms  a  perfectly  calm  and  equable  judgment. 
"  As  for  any  partial  favour  that  I  bear  to  the  clergy,"  writes 
More,  "  I  never  said  that  they  were  all  faultless,  nor  I  never 
excused  their  faults.  As  I  loved  and  honoured  the  good,  so 
was  I  not  slack  in  providing  for  the  correction  of  those  that  were 
bad  and  slanderous  to  their  own  order.  Which  sort  had  at  my 
hand  so  little  favour,  that  there  was  no  man  into  whose  hands 
they  were  more  loth  to  come."* 

In  another  place  he  writes  on  the  subject  as  follows  :  ''  I  wot 
well,  the  whole  world  is  so  wretched  that  spiritual  and  temporal 
everywhere  all  be  bad  enough  ;  God  make  us  all  better  I  But 
yet,  for  that  I  have  myself  seen,  and  by  credible  folk  have 
heard,  like  as  ye  say  by  our  temporality  (i.e.,  of  the  laity)  that 
we  be  as  good  and  honest  as  anywhere  else,  so  dare  I  boldly 

in  saying  that  "  More's  Catholic  biographers  have  acknowledged  that 
he  turned  in  disgust  from  the  impurity  of  the  cloister  to  the  better 
chances  which  he  thought  the  world  offered  of  living  a  chaste  and 
useful  life  ".  Neither  Erasmus  nor  Stapleton,  nor  Cresacre  More,  nor 
Walter,  nor  any  other  Catholic  writer,  has  acknowledged  or  suggested 
any  such  thing. 

*  English  Works^  p.  868  {Apology,  chap.  x.). 

CHOICE    OF    A    STATE    OF    LIFE.  ;^^ 

say  that  the  spirituality  of  England,  and  specially  that  j)art  in 
which  ye  find  most  fault — that  is,  to  wit,  that  part  which  we 
commonly  call  the  secular  clergy — is,  in  learning  and  honest 
living,  well  able  to  match,  and  (saving  the  comparisons  be 
odious)  I  would  say  further,  far  able  to  overmatch,  numljer  for 
number,  the  spirituality  of  any  nation  Christian.  I  wot  well 
there  be  therein  many  very  lewd  and  naught  ;  and  surely, 
wheresoever  there  is  a  multitude,  it  is  not  without  miracle  well 
possible  to  be  otherwise.  But  now,  if  the  bishops  would  once 
take  unto  priesthood  better  laymen  and  fewer,  for  of  us  be  they 
made,  all  the  matter  were  more  than  half  amended. 

''  Now,  where  ye  say  that  ye  see  more  vice  in  them  than  in 
ourselves,  truth  it  is  that  everything  in  them  is  greater,  because 
they  be  more  bounden  to  be  better.  But  else  the  things  that 
they  missdo  be  the  selfsame  that  we  sin  in  ourselves,  which 
vices  that,  as  ye  say,  we  see  more  in  them  than  in  ourselves,  the 
cause  is  (I  suppose),  for  we  look  more  upon  theirs  than  on 
our  own,  and  fare,  as  ^"Esop  saith  in  a  faille,  that  every  man 
carrieth  a  double  wallet  on  his  shoulder,  and  into  the  one  that 
hangeth  at  his  breast  he  putteth  other  folk's  faults,  and  therein 
he  looketh  and  poreth  often.  In  the  other  he  layeth  up  all  his 
own  and  swingeth  it  at  his  back,  which  himself  never  listeth  to 
look  in,  but  other  that  come  after  him  cast  an  eye  into  it  among 
(i.e.,  sometimes). 

"  Would  God  we  were  all  of  the  mind  that  every  man 
thought  no  man  so  bad  as  himself,  for  that  were  the  way  to 
mend  both  them  and  us.  Now  they  blame  us  and  we  blame 
them,  and  both  blameworthy,  and  either  part  more  ready  to 
find  other's  faults  than  to  mend  their  own.  For  in  reproach  of 
them  we  be  so  studious  that  neither  good  nor  bad  passeth 
unreproved.  If  they  be  familiar  we  call  them  light ;  if  they  be 
solitary  we  call  them  fantastic ;  if  they  be  sad  {i.e.,  serious)  we 
call  them  solemn  ;  if  they  be  merry  we  call  them  mad  ;  if  they 
be  holy  we  call  them  hypocrites  ;  if  they  keep  few  servants  we 
call  them  niggards  ;  if  they  keep  many  we  call  them  pompous  ; 


34  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

if  a  lewd  priest  do  a  lewd  deed,  then  we  say  :  '  Lo,  see  what 
example  the  clergy  giveth  us  ! '  as  though  that  priest  were  the 
clergy.  But  then  forget  we  to  look  what  good  men  be  therein, 
and  what  good  counsel  they  give  us,  and  what  good  ensample 
they  show  us.  But  we  fare  as  do  the  ravens  and  the  carrion 
crows,  that  never  meddle  with  any  quick  (i.e.,  live)  flesh  ;  but 
where  they  may  find  a  dead  dog  in  a  ditch  thereto  they  flee, 
and  thereon  they  feed  apace." 

"  Undoubtedly,"  he  concludes,  "  if  the  clergy  be  nought,  we 
must  needs  be  worse,  as  I  heard  once  Master  Colet,  the  good 
dean  of  Paul's,  preach.  For  he  said  that  it  can  be  none  other, 
but  that  we  (i.e.,  the  laity)  must  ever  be  one  degree  under 
them.  For  surely  (as  he  said)  it  can  be  no  lie  that  Our  Saviour 
saith  Himself,  which  saith  of  them  that  they  be  the  salt  of  the 
earth  ;  and  if  the  salt  once  appall,  the  world  must  need  wax 
unsavoury.  And  He  saith  that  they  be  the  light  of  the  world  ; 
and  then  if  the  light,  saith  He,  be  darked,  how  dark  will  then 
the  darkness  be — that  is,  to  wit,  all  the  world  beside,  whereof  He 
called  the  clergy  only  the  light  ?  "  * 

More,  however,  spoke  out  very  strongly  on  that  which  was 
the  principal  abuse  of  the  Church  in  England  in  those  days — 
indiscriminate  ordination.  His  friend  and  director,  Colet,  had 
made  this  the  main  subject  of  his  cona'o  ad  cleriim  before  the 
Convocation  in  15 12.  In  Barclay's  poetical  translation  of  the 
"  Ship  of  Fools,"  which  appeared  about  the  same  time,  the 
matter  was  thus  sturdily  handled  : — 

The  cause  why  so  many  priestis  lacketh  wit 

Is  in  you  bishops,  if  I  durst  truth  express, 
Which  not  consider  what  men  that  ye  admit 

Of  living,  cunning,  person,  and  godliness. 
But  who  so  ever  himself  thereto  will  dress 

If  an  angel  t  be  his  broker  to  the  scribe, 
He  is  admitted,  howbeit  he  be  witless  ; 

Thus  sold  is  priesthood  for  an  unhappy  bribe.  X 

*  English  Works,  p.  225.     [Dialogue,  Bk.  iii.  ch.  11.) 
t  A  coin  worth  los.  bearing  the  effigy  of  an  angel. 
Ij:  Of  the  abusionof  the  Spirituality. 

CHOICE    OF    A    STATE    OF    LIFE.  35 

Following  in  the  track  of  these  authors,  Sir  Thomas  wrote  in 
his  Dialogue,  pubhshed  in  1528  :  "  '  Verily,  were  all  the  bishops 
of  my  mind,  as  I  know  some  that  be,  ye  should  not  of  priests 
have  the  plenty  that  ye  have.  .  .  .  Gold  would  we  not  set  by  if 
it  were  as  common  as  chalk  or  clay.  And  whereof  is  there  now 
such  plenty  as  of  priests  ?  .  .  .  The  time  was  when  few  men 
durst  presume  to  take  upon  them  the  high  office  of  priest,  not 
even  when  they  were  chosen  and  called  there  unto.  Now 
runneth  every  rascal  and  boldly  offereth  himself  for  able. 
And  where  the  dignity  passeth  all  princes,  and  they  that  lewd 
be  desire  it  for  worldly  winning,  yet  cometh  that  sort  thereto 
with  such  a  mad  mind  that  they  reckon  almost  God  much 
bounden  to  them  that  they  vouchsafe  to  take  it.     But  were  I 

Pope '     '  By  my  soul,'  quoth  he,  '  I  would  ye  were,  and  my 

lady,  your  wife,  Popess  too  1 '  '  Well,'  quoth  I,  '  then  should 
she  devise  for  nuns.  And  as  for  me,  touching  the  choice  of 
priests,  I  could  not  well  devise  better  provisions  than  are  by 
the  laws  of  the  Church  provided  already,  if  they  were  as  well 
kept  as  they  be  well  made. ' 

"  '  But  for  the  number,  I  would  surely  see  such  a  way  therein 
that  we  should  not  have  such  a  rabble  ;  that  every  mean  man 
must  have  a  priest  in  his  house  to  wait  upon  his  wife,  which 
no  man  almost  lacketh  now,  to  the  contempt  of  priesthood  in 
as  vile  office  as  his  horse  keeper!'*  'That  is,'  quoth  he, 
'  truth  indeed,  and  worse  too,  for  they  keep+  hawks  and  dogs, 
and  yet  me  seemeth  surely  a  more  honest  service  to  wait  on  a 
horse  than  on  a  dog.'  '  And  yet  I  suppose,'  quoth  I,  '  if  the 
laws  of  the  Church,  which  Luther  and  Tindall  would  have  all 
broken,  were  all  well  observed  and  kept,  this  gear  should  not 
be  thus,  but  the  number  of  priests  would  be  much  minished, 
and  the  remnant  much  the  better.  For  it  is  by  the  laws  of  the 
Church  provided,  to  the  intent  no  priest  should  (unto  the 
slander  of  priesthood)  be  driven  to  live  in  such  lewd  manner 

*  i.c.^  till  he  looks  on  the  priest's  office  as  no  better  than  an  ostler's. 
i*  i.e.,  tend,  take  care  of. 

^6  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

or  worse,  there  should  none  be  admitted  unto  priesthood 
until  he  have  a  title  of  a  sufficient  yearly  living,  either  of  his 
own  patrimony  or  otherwise.  Nor  at  this  day  they  be  none 
otherwise  accepted.'  '  Why,'  quoth  he,  '  wherefore  go  there 
then  so  many  of  them  a-begging  ? '  '  Marry,'  quoth  I,  '  for 
they  delude  the  law  and  themselves  also.  For  they  never 
have  grant  of  a  living  that  may  serve  them  in  sight  for  that 
purpose,  but  they  secretly  discharge  it  ere  they  have  it,  or  else 
they  could  not  get  it.  And  thus  the  bishop  is  blinded  by  the 
sight  of  the  writing,  and  the  priest  goeth  a-begging,  for  all  his 
grant  of  a  good  living  and  the  law  is  deluded,  and  the  order  is 
rebuked,  by  the  priest's  begging  and  lewd  living,  which  either  is 
fain  to  walk  at  rovers  and  live  upon  trentals  *  or  worse,  or  else 
to  serve  in  a  secular  man's  house,  which  should  not  need  if 
this  gap  were  stopped.' "  f 

After  these  serious  words  we  may,  after  More's  own  fashion, 
sum  up  the  matter  with  one  of  his  own  jests  :  "  .'^sop  telleth  a 
fable  of  a  poor  old  man,  which,  bearing  up  a  hill  a  burden  of 
bushes  in  his  neck,  panting  for  weariness,  in  the  midway  laid 
down  his  burden  and  sat  him  down  and  sighed,  and  waxed  so 
weary  of  his  life  that  he  wished  and  called  for  death.  Where- 
upon Death  came  anon  readily  toward  him  and  asked  him, 
*  What  wilt  thou  with  me  ? '  But  when  the  poor  fellow  saw 
that  lean  whoreson  there  so  ready,  '  I  called  you,  sir,'  quoth 
he,  '  to  pray  you  do  so  much  for  me  as  help  me  up  again  with 
this  bitched  burden '.  So  ween  I  that,  for  all  our  words,  if 
that  easy  life  and  wealthy  that  is  in  religion  were  offered  us,  as 
weary  as  we  be  of  wedding,  we  would  rather  abide  all  our  old 
pain  abroad  than  in  a  cloister  take  a  religious  man's  life  for 

*  To  become  a  tramp,  and  to  get  a  trental  (or  30  days'  masses)  here 
and  there. 

t  English  Works,  227,  8. 

J  lb.,  p.  884  {Apology,  ch.  xxii.). 



THE  question  of  vocation  appears  to  have  been  debated  by 
More  during  several  years,  before  it  was  finally  closed 
by  his  marriage.  Before  speaking  of  that  event,  I  must 
go  back  and  try  to  arrange  what  has  been  recorded  of  his  early 
manhood.  Unfortunately  his  first  biographers  give  us  very  few 
dates ;  and  while  we  are  able  to  determine  some  events  from 
known  history,  there  are  a  few  of  which  the  exact  time  must 
be  left  to  conjecture.  He  must,  then,  have  left  Oxford  at  the  early 
age  of  sixteen.*  After  having  spent  some  time,  probably  two 
years,  at  New  Inn,  he  was  entered  as  a  student  at  Lincoln's 
Inn  in  February,  1496,  being  just  eighteen.  We  know  that  in 
the  spring  of  1504,  when  he  was  twenty-six,  he  became  a  mem- 
ber of  Parliament,  and  he  married  some  time  in  the  year  1505. 
His  biographers  tell  us  that  he  resided  for  four  years  near  the 
Charter-House.  These  were  almost  certainly  the  years  that 
immediately  preceded  his  marriage.  A  letter  of  Erasmus, 
dated  12th  April,  mentions  that  More  is  in  Lincoln's  Inn. 
The  year  to  which  this  letter  belongs  is  fixed  by  a  reference 
to  his  work  called  the  Adagia  being  then  in  the  press  and  to 
appear  after  Easter.     The  work  came  out  in  1501.! 

*  He  did  not  remain  to  take  any  degree,  and  it  was  no  very  unusual 
thing  for  youths  of  fourteen  or  fifteen  to  proceed  to  the  universities.  I 
cannot  see  any  likelihood,  however,  that  a  youth  of  that  age  would  have 
been  admitted  to  the  society  of  Colet  or  of  Grocyn,  as  Mr.  Seebohm  has 

t  Letter  29.  The  Leyden  editor  has  affixed  the  year  1498  erro- 


So  much  will  have  to  be  said  of  Erasmus  in  connection  with 
More,  that  it  is  worth  while  to  investigate  here  the  beginnings 
of  their  acquaintance.  A  ridiculous  tale  has  got  into  circulation, 
which  places  the  earliest  interview  between  More  and  Erasmus 
when  the  former  was  chancellor.*  It  is  enough  to  say  that 
they  had  been  the  dearest  of  friends  for  more  than  thirty  years. 
Erasmus  first  came  to  England  in  1497  on  a  visit  to  William 
Blount,  Lord  Mountjoy,  w^ho  had  been  his  pupil  in  Paris.  It 
was  probably  at  his  house  that  he  met  young  More.  After  a 
short  stay  in  London  he  went  to  Oxford.  From  a  letter  written 
by  Erasmus  from  Oxford  on  28th  October,  1499  (o^  149^)5  ^^'^ 
find  that  they  were  already  corresponding  as  dear  friends.  "  I 
have  poured  curses  on  the  letter-carrier,  by  whose  laziness  or 
treachery  I  fancy  it  must  be  that  I  have  been  disappointed  of 
the  most  eagerly  expected  letters  of  my  dear  More  {Afori  inei). 

*  A  Book  of  Pleasant  Talcs  and  Stories  relates  the  matter  as 
follows:  "Sir  T.  More  being  at  my  Lord  Mayor's  table,  word  was 
brought  him  that  a  foreigner  inquired  for  his  Lordship  (he  being  then 
Lord  Chancellor).  They  having  well-nigh  dined,  the  Lord  Mayor 
ordered  one  of  his  officers  to  take  the  gent  into  his  care  and  give  him 
what  he  best  liked.  The  officer  took  Erasmus  into  the  Lord  Mayor's 
cellar,  where  he  chose  to  eat  oysters,  and  drank  wine  drawn  into  a 
leathern  jack  and  poured  into  a  silver  cup.  x\s  soon  as  Erasmus  had 
well  refreshed  himself  he  was  introduced  to  Sir  T.  More.  At  his  first 
coming  in  he  saluted  Sir  Thomas  in  Latin.  Sir  Thomas,  having  never 
seen  him  before,  asked  him,  Unde  vcuis  ?  (Whence  do  you  come  ?).  Eras- 
mus answered,  Ex  infcris  (from  the  lower  regions),  which  has  three 
meanings — the  Netherlands,  the  cellar,  and  hell.  Sir  Thomas  :  Quid 
ibi  agitiir  ?  (What  is  done  there  ?).  Erasmus  :  Vivis  vcsciintur  et  bibiint 
ex  ocrcis  (They  feed  on  the  living  and  drink  out  of  boots).  Sir  Thomas  : 
An  VIC  noscis  ?  (Do  you  know  me?).  Erasmus:  Aut  tn  cs  Morns  ant 
nnllus  (You  are  More  or  no  one).  Sir  Thomas  :  Et  tn  cs  ant  Dens 
aut  demon  ant  mens  Erasmus  (You  are  either  God  or  the  devil  or 
my  own  Erasmus).  In  another  story  they  first  met  at  table  without 
introduction  and  got  into  debate  about  the  Real  Presence.  Erasmus  put 
forward  sceptical  arguments,  and  More  defended  the  Catholic  Faith.  At 
last  Erasmus  exclaimed  :  A?it  tn  cs  Morns  ant  mil  Ins  ;  and  More  retorted : 
Ant  tn  cs  Erasmns  ant  diabolns. 


For  that  you  have  failed  on  your  part  I  neither  want  nor  ought  to 
suspect,  though  I  expostulated  with  you  most  vehemently  in  my 
last  letter.  .  .  .  Adieu,  my  most  delightful  More  (Vale^Juam- 
dissinie  Jfore)."  More  was  then  twenty-one,  Erasmus  about  ten 
years  older.  In  a  letter  (to  be  quoted  later)  Erasmus  describes 
the  beauty,  or  rather  the  charm,  of  his  person,  only  surpassed 
by  the  grace  of  his  manners  and  disposition.  Jacobus  Battus 
tells  how  Erasmus,  returning  to  the  Continent  in  January,  1500, 
from  his  first  visit  to  England,  spoke  with  enthusiasm  of  the 
kindness  of  Prior  Richard  Charnock,  the  erudition  of  Colet, 
and  the  sweetness  of  More  {suavitatem^.'^  In  another  letter 
Erasmus  says  :  T/ionue  Mori  i/igenio  quid  iinquani  fiiixit  naUira 
vel  7jwllius  vel  dulcius  vel  felicius  ?  {Ep.  14).  "Did  Nature 
ever  frame  a  sweeter,  happier  character  than  that  of  More  ?"  t 
It  speaks  much  for  both  More  and  Erasmus  that  these  terms 
of  admiration  and  endearment  continue  to  the  end.  In  the 
interests  of  truth,  I  must  declare  at  the  outset  that  I  cannot 
find  the  very  slightest  foundation  for  the  assertion  of  Stapleton, 
copied  by  Cresacre  More  and  many  others,  that  in  the  course 
of  time  their  friendship  cooled.  Abundant  proofs  of  the  con- 
trary will  appear  as  we  proceed. 

In  giving  an  account  of  his  various  writings,  Erasmus  has 
related  an  event  that  illustrates  the  life  of  More  at  this  epoch  : 
"  I  composed  a  heroic  poem  on  the  praise  of  Henry  VII.  and 
of  his  children,  and  of  Britain.  It  was  only  a  three  days'  task, 
yet  it  was  a  task,  for  it  was  some  years  since  I  had  written  or 
even  read  a  poem.  It  was  partly  shame  and  partly  pain  that 
drew  this  from  me.  Thomas  More,  who,  while  I  was  staying  in 
the  country  house  of  Mountjoy,  had  paid  me  a  visit,  took  me  out 
for  a  walk,  to  a  neighbouring  village.  There  all  the  king's 
children,  except  Arthur,  the  eldest,  were  being  educated.  When 
we  reached  the  Hall  the  attendants  ifofa  poinpd)  both  of  that 
house  and  of  Lord  Moimtjoy's  were  assembled.     In  the  midst 

*  Ep.  62.  t  Ep.  14.     Dec.  5,  1497  (or  rather  1498). 

40  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Stood  Henry,  then  nine  years  old,  yet  already  with  a  royal 
bearing,  betokening  a  certain  loftiness  of  mind  joined  with 
singular  condescension.  At  his  right  was  Margaret,  about 
eleven  years  old.  She  afterwards  married  James,  King  of  the 
Scots.  At  his  left  in  play  was  Mary,  four  years  old.  Edmund, 
an  infant,  was  carried  by  the  nurse.  More  with  his  friend 
Arnold,*  after  saluting  Prince  Henry,  presented  him  with  I 
know  not  what  writing.  As  I  was  entirely  taken  by  surprise  I 
had  nothing  to  offer,  and  I  was  obliged  to  make  a  promise  that 
I  would  write  something  to  show  my  respect.  I  was  somewhat 
vexed  with  More  for  not  warning  me,  and  especially  so  since 
the  prince  while  we  were  dining  sent  me  a  note  asking  some 
fruit  of  my  pen.  I  went  home  and  in  spite  of  the  Muses,  from 
whom  I  had  long  been  separated,  I  finished  my  poem  within 
three  days."  t 

The  date  of  this  incident  is  fixed  by  the  mention  of  Prince 
Edmund,  who  was  born  on  Feb.  21,  1499.  Erasmus,  therefore, 
previous  to  leaving  England  in  January,  1500,  had  gone  to  take 
leave  of  his  former  pupil,  Lord  Mountjoy.  That  nobleman 
had  studied  under  the  direction  of  the  Dutch  scholar  in  Paris  ; 
he  was  now  beginning  his  political  career  and  had  lately  married. 
Erasmus  relates  that  at  the  desire  of  Mountjoy  he  had  under- 
taken to  write  a  "declamation"  for  and  against  the  desirability  of 
taking  a  wife.  When  he  had  finished  the  first  part  he  showed 
it  to  his  young  patron,  who  read  it  carefully.  "  How  do  you 
like  it?"  said  the  author.  "So  much  that  you  have 
thoroughly  persuaded  me  to  marry,"  replied  Mountjoy. 
"Stay,"  said  Erasmus,  "till  you  see  what  I  have  to  say  on 
the  other  side."  "  No,"  replied  the  young  man,  "  that  part  will 
do  for  you ;  what  you  have  written  suits  me  exactly."  When 
Erasmus  wrote  this  in  1524,  Mountjoy  had  buried  his  third 
wife,  and  is  sure,  says  Erasmus,  to  take  a  fourth  if  he  lives.;]: 

*  Another  young  lawyer. 

fEpist.  ad  Butzhcmum,  written  in  Feb.  1524,  5.  X  lb. 


When  Erasmus  heard  that  the  merciless  tyrant  Henry  had 
placed  on  a  pole  on  London  Bridge  the  parboiled  head  of 
his  "  most  sweet,"  "  most  delightful,"  his  "  darling "  More, 
how  must  the  horror  as  well  as  the  pathos  of  the  thought  have 
been  increased  by  the  memory  of  that  pretty  scene  in  the  Royal 
nursery,  where  he  had  the  first  glimpse  of  Henry  and  took  note 
of  his  princely  affability !  [hinnanifas).  Whether  this  was 
More's  first  acquaintance  with  Prince  Henry  we  are  not  told. 
It  may  have  been  such,  and  it  seems  likely  that  the  little  plot 
was  arranged  by  Lord  JMountjoy,  not  to  get  Erasmus  into  a 
scrape,  but  to  bring  about  an  introduction  that  might  be  useful 
to  him  in  later  years,  when  Henry  should  have  become  a  prince 
of  the  Church,  which  before  his  brother's  death  was  considered 
his  probable  destiny.  As  it  was,  the  young  prince,  by  having 
seen  Erasmus,  came  to  take  a  natural  interest  in  his  writings, 
by  the  aid  of  which  he  tried,  not  altogether  unsuccessfully,  to 
form  for  himself  a  good  Latin  style.  At  a  later  period  Henry 
sought  to  attach  him  to  his  court  and  bestowed  some  not  very 
royal  largesse. 

At  that  court  More  was  to  spend  the  best  part  of  his  life, 
but,  as  we  have  already  seen,  he  was  as  yet  undecided,  and  was 
by  no  means  eager  to  lay  hold  of  the  wheel  of  fortune.  Indeed 
his  first  step  in  public  life  was  more  calculated  to  ruin  himself 
and  others,  than  to  lead  to  wealth  or  honour.  The  matter 
is  thus  related  by  Roper :  "  In  the  time  of  King  Henry  the 
Seventh,  More  was  made  a  burgess  of  the  Parliament  wherein 
was  demanded  by  the  king  (as  I  have  heard  reported)  about 
three-fifteenths,  for  the  marriage  of  his  eldest  daughter,  that 
then  should  be  Scottish  Queen  :  at  the  last  debating  whereof 
he  made  such  arguments  and  reasons  against,  that  the  king's 
demands  were  thereby  overthrown.  So  that  one  of  the  king's 
privy  chaniber,  named  M.  Tyler,  being  present  thereat,  brought 
word  to  the  king  out  of  the  Parliament  house  that  a  beardless 
boy  had  disappointed  all  his  purpose.  \Miereupon  the  king, 
conceiving  great  indignation  towards  him,  could  not  be  satisfied 

42  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

until  he  had  some  way  revenged  it.  And  forasmuch  as  he, 
nothing  having,  nothing  could  lose,  his  Grace  devised  a  cause- 
less quarrel  against  his  father,  keeping  him  in  the  Tower  till  he 
had  made  him  pay  a  hundred  pounds'  fine. 

"  Shortly  hereupon  it  fortuned  that  this  Sir  Thomas  More,* 
coming  in  a  suit  to  Dr.  Fox,  Bishop  of  Winchester,  one  of  the 
king's  privy  council,  the  bishop  called  him  aside,  and  pre- 
tended great  favour  towards  him,  and  promised  that  if  he  would 
be  ruled  by  him  he  would  not  fail  but  bring  him  into  the  king's 
favour  again,  meaning,  as  it  afterwards  appeared,  to  cause 
him  thereby  to  confess  his  offence  against  the  king,  whereby 
his  Highness  might  with  the  better  colour  have  occasion  to 
revenge  his  displeasure  against  him.  But  when  he  came  from 
the  bishop,  he  fell  in  communication  with  one  Mr.  Whitford, 
his  familiar  friend,  then  chaplain  to  that  bishop,  and  afterwards 
a  father  of  Sion,  and  showed  him  what  the  bishop  had  said 
to  him,  desiring  to  hear  his  advice  therein  ;  who,  for  the 
Passion  of  God,  prayed  him  in  no  wise  to  follow  his  counsel : 
'for  my  lord,'  quoth  he,  'to  serve  the  king's  turn,  will  not 
stick  to  agree  to  his  own  father's  death  '.  So  Sir  Thomas 
]\lore  returned  to  the  bishop  no  more  ;  and  had  not  the  king 
soon  after  died,  he  was  determined  to  have  gone  over  sea, 
thinking  that  being  in  the  king's  indignation,  he  could  not 
live  in  England  without  great  danger." 

The  Parliament  in  which  the  events  thus  related  occurred 
was  that  called  in  the  spring  of  1504.  No  returns  can  now 
be  found  to  tell  us  what  borough  More  represented, t  nor  has 
any  of  his  biographers  supplied  the  name.     There  was  nothing 

*  Called  Sir  by  anticipation. 

■\-  There  were  seven  parliaments  in  the  reign  of  Henry  VII.,  but  for 
none  of  them  have  returns  been  found  (see  Parliamentary  Blue  Book, 
called  "  Parliaments  of  England,"  1879,  being  a  Return  to  Order  of 
House  of  Lords  of  1877).  Bishop  Stubbs,  in  his  Lictitrcs  on  Mcd'uvval 
and  Modern  History,  discusses  the  financial  matters  of  the  reign  of 
Henry  VII.  p.   356,  sqq. 


factious  or  unreasonable  in  More's  character,  and  he  must  have 
felt  strongly  on  the  subject  of  the  king's  avarice,  to  lead  the 
opposition  as  he  did.  It  will  be  remembered  that  under 
the  advice  of  Sir  Richard  Empson  and  Edmund  Dudley, 
Barons  of  the  Exchequer,  the  king  was  at  that  time  rousing 
the  whole  nation  to  so  great  a  pitch  of  exasperation  by  his 
exactions  and  the  unjust  expedients  to  which  he  resorted, 
that  his  advisers  both  suffered  the  penalty  of  death  at  the 
beginning  of  the  next  reign.  Several  of  the  citizens  of 
London  had  suffered  in  their  goods  or  liberty ;  and  it  is 
probable  that  More  was  their  parliamentary  representative. 
The  treatment  of  John  More  is  a  specimen  of  what  was 
happening  to  hundreds.  There  was  never  wanting  a  pre- 
text to  throw  into  prison,  at  the  accusation  of  an  informer,  any 
official  or  prominent  person  ;  and,  as  the  accused  felt  sure  of 
condemnation  by  a  packed  jury  if  he  came  to  trial,  he  was  glad 
to  purchase  freedom  by  payment  of  a  fine.  The  very  preachers 
in  the  pulpits  were  admonishing  Henry,  and  protesting  against 
what  was  going  on.*  As  More  could  not  remedy  these  evils, 
he  thought  it  at  least  his  duty  to  make  a  stand  against  exces- 
sive generosity  to  such  a  king.  By  his  influence  the  grant  was 
reduced  from  ;^i  13,000,  which  would  have  been  the  product 
of  the  three-fifteenths  demanded,  to  ^3o,ooo.t  Dudley  had 
been  Speaker  in  this  Parliament.  Stapleton  relates  that,  when 
some  years  later  he  was  condemned  to  death,  ^Nlore  visited 
him  in  prison,  and  asked  him  whether  he  had  not  acted  well 
in  resisting  the  exaction.  "  Yes  !  "  replied  Dudley,  "  and  God 
was  with  you  that  you  confessed  no  fault  against  the  king. 
Had  you  done  so,  you  would  have  paid  the  penalty  with  your 

*  Hall's  Chronicle. 

t  See  Seebohm,  p.  145,  and  Lingard's  account  of  the  last  years  of 
Henry  VH.  Lingard,  however,  only  mentions  this  parliamentary  grant 
in  a  note,  and  has  no  reference  to  More,  or  to  the  demand  of  the  three- 

44  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Roper  has  mentioned  More's  project  of  seeking  security  on 
the  Continent.  We  know  from  his  own  statement  that  he  did 
in  fact  cross  the  sea,  whether  to  make  a  tour,  as  was  the  custom 
with  young  gentlemen,  as  Stapleton  supposes,  or  to  choose  a 
place  of  retirement,  is  uncertain.  In  1515  he  wrote  a  letter  to 
Martin  Dorpius,  in  which  he  thus  mentions  this  visit  : — 

"  What  esteem  you  have  for  our  English  universities  I  do 
not  know.  You  seem  to  set  so  much  by  Louvain  and  Paris, 
that,  as  regards  dialectics  at  least,  you  think  they  are  banished 
from  the  rest  of  the  world.  Now,  seven  years  ago  I  was  in  both 
those  universities,  and  though  not  for  a  very  long  time,  yet  I  took 
pains  to  ascertain  what  was  taught  there  and  what  methods 
were  followed.  Though  I  respect  both  of  them,  yet  neither 
from  what  I  then  saw,  nor  from  what  I  have  since  heard,  have  I 
found  any  reason  why,  even  in  dialectics,  I  should  wish  any 
sons  of  mine  (for  whom  I  desire  the  very  best  education)  to  be 
taught  there  rather  than  at  Oxford  or  Cambridge." 

This  letter  is  dated  October,  15 15.  The  visit,  therefore,  to 
France  and  Flanders  must  have  been  in  1508,  before  the  death 
of  Henry  VII.,  but  subsequent  to  his  own  marriage. 

Before  we  come  to  that  turning-point  of  his  life  something 
must  be  said  of  a  few  of  his  other  friends.  One  of  these  was 
William  Lilly,  a  young  man  who,  after  his  course  at  Oxford, 
had  gone  to  Rhodes,  and  resided  there  some  years  for  the  study 
of  Greek.*  Similarity  of  taste  drew  him  and  More  closely  to- 
gether. More  perfected  himself  in  Creek  by  Lilly's  deeper 
knowledge,  and  in  his  turn  imparted  to  Lilly  some  of  his 
own  ardent  piety.  They  exercised  and  amused  themselves  by 
translating  into  Latin  verse  epigrams  from  the  Greek  Antho- 
logia.  Their  respective  translations  were  printed  in  juxtaposi- 
tion in  the  Pi'ogymfiastica  Thomcc  Mori  et  Gulielmi  Lilii 
SodaliuiiiA     A  few  years  later  Lilly  became  head  master  of  St. 

*  Rhodes  was  then  in  the  possession  of  the  Knights  of  St.  John. 
+  They  will  be  noticed  in  Chapter  VII. 


Paul's  School,  and  his  name  was  long  known  to  every  educated 
youth  in  England  by  the  Latin  grammar  which  he  composed. 

In  the  last  chapter  mention  was  twice  made  of  Dr.  Colet, 
Dean  of  St.  Paul's — by  Mr.  Seebohm,  as  of  one  who  appeared 
opportunely  to  rescue  More  from  the  fate  into  which  his  ill- 
advised  enthusiasm  for  the  priesthood  was  hurrying  him,  and 
by  More  himself,  as  of  one  who  inspired  him  with  the  veneration 
for  the  priesthood  which  he  had  just  explained  and  defended. 
Colet,  like  More,  was  a  Londoner  by  birth,  and  an  Oxford 
student.  He  was  a  man  of  considerable  learning,  of  great 
zeal,  especially  as  a  preacher,  but  he  was  pre-eminently  a  man 
of  character  fitted  to  influence  others.  His  determination  may 
sometimes  have  been  pushed  into  obstinacy  and  contentious- 
ness. More,  who  loved  and  admired  him  greatly,  notes  this 
foible  in  a  letter  to  Erasmus  :  "  Colet  is  busy  at  Greek,  using 
the  occasional  help  of  my  Clements.  I  believe  he  will  persevere 
and  succeed,  especially  if  you  urge  him  from  Louvain.  Yet, 
perhaps  you  had  better  leave  him  to  his  own  impulse.  You 
know  how,  out  of  a  certain  disputatiousness,  he  resists  those 
who  urge  him,  even  though  they  are  only  persuading  him  to 
that  on  which  he  was  already  bent."  * 

It  is  possible,  though  not  certain,  that  Colet  had  made  the 
acquaintance  of  More  when  they  were  both  at  Oxford,  though 
Colet  was  ten  or  eleven  years  older,  and  a  lecturer  in  Holy 
Scripture  when  More  was  merely  a  student  in  arts.  At  a  later 
period  Colet  used  to  say  that  More  was  the  one  genius  of  whom 
Britain  could  then  boast,  and  Erasmus,  who  quotes  tlie  words, 
remarks  that  Colet  was  a  man  of  keen  and  accurate 
judgment.  This  eminent  man  More  had  chosen  as  hii  con- 
fessor. At  what  period  he  placed  himself  under  his  spiritual 
guidance  we  are  not  told.  Erasmus,  who  knew  Colet';  life  and 
opinions  thoroughly,  mentions  his  sentiments  regarding  the 
confessional :  "  He  had  the  utmost  esteem  for  secret  confession, 
and  used  to  say  that  from  no  practice  did  he  derive  so  much 

*  Inter  Epist.  Erasm.  App.  25  (25th  F"eb.,  1516). 

46  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

consolation  and  spiritual  profit ;  but  he  was  equally  opposed  to 
scrupulous  confessions  and  constant  repetitions  ".* 

If  he  loved  a  delicate  but  disliked  a  timid  and  feeble 
conscience,  in  More  he  would  find  one  after  his  own  heart, 
and  from  their  spiritual  intercourse  there  grew  up  an  intimate 
and  lasting  friendship. 

Stapleton  has  preserved  a  letter  written  by  More  to  Dr.  Colet. 
The  Latin  is  evidently  the  original  work  of  More,  and  not  due 
to  Stapleton.  It  is  probable  that  a  rough  copy  came  into  the 
hands  of  one  of  More's  secretaries,  who  communicated  it  to 
More's  biographer : — 

"  I  was  walking  up  and  down  the  law  courts  when  your  ser- 
vant met  me.  I  was  delighted  at  seeing  him,  both  because  I 
have  always  been  fond  of  him,  and  still  more  because  I  thought 
he  had  not  come  [to  London]  without  you.  But  when  I  learnt, 
not  only  that  you  had  not  returned,  but  were  not  to  return  for 
a  considerable  time,  I  was  as  greatly  dejected.  What  can  be 
more  distressing  to  me  than  to  be  deprived  of  your  most  dear 
society,  after  being  guided  by  your  wise  counsels,  cheered  by 
your  charming  familiarity,  assured  by  your  earnest  sermons, 
and  helped  forward  by  your  example,  so  that  I  used  to  obey 
your  very  look  or  nod  ?  With  these  helps  I  felt  myself 
strengthened,  but  without  them  I  seem  to  languish.  Follow- 
ing your  guidance,  I  had  escaped  almost  from  the  jaws  of  hell ; 
now,  like  Euridice,  I  know  not  by  what  force  I  am  being  drawn 
back  into  darkness.  Euridice,  however,  suffered  this  violence 
because  of  the  presence  of  Orpheus ;  I,  because  of  your  absence. 
W^hat  is  there  in  the  city  to  incite  to  virtue  ?  On  the  contrary, 
when  one  wishes  to  live  well,  by  a  thousand  devices  and  seduc- 
tions the  life  of  a  city  drags  one  down.     False  love  and  flattery 

*  Ut  confessionem  secretam  vehementer  probabat,  negans  se  ulla  ex  re 
capere  tantumdem  consolationis  ac  boni  spiritus,  ita  anxiam  ac  subinde 
repetitam  vehementer  damnabat  {Epist.  435).  Though  Erasmus  in  this 
is  probably  speaking  of  Colet's  principles  as  a  penitent,  they  would  of 
course  guide  him  also  as  a  confessor. 


on  the  one  side ;  on  the  other,  hatreds  and  quarrels  and  legal 
wranglings.  One  sees  nothing  but  butchers,  fishmongers,  cooks, 
confectioners,  fishermen,  fowlers,  ministering  to  the  appetites  of 
the  body,  and  to  the  world  and  its  prince,  the  devil.  AMiy,  the 
very  houses  intercept  a  great  part  of  the  light,  and  prevent  one 
from  seeing  the  heavens.  It  is  not  the  horizon  *  that  bounds 
the  prospects,  but  the  roofs  of  the  houses.  So  I  do  not  blame 
you  that  you  are  not  yet  tired  of  the  country,  where  you  see  the 
simple  country  folk,  ignorant  of  city  tricks  ;  and,  wherever  you 
turn  your  eyes,  the  beautiful  landscape  refreshes,  the  fresh  air 
exhilarates,  and  the  sight  of  heaven  delights  you.  You  see 
nothing  but  the  kind  gifts  of  nature,  and  the  holy  impressions 
of  innocence.  Still,  I  would  not  have  you  so  captivated  by 
these  charms  as  not  to  hasten  back  to  us  as  soon  as  possible. 
For  if  you  dislike  the  town,  yet  your  country  parish  of  Stepney, 
for  which  also  you  must  be  solicitous,  will  afford  you  as  many 
attractions  as  the  place  where  you  now  are :  and  from  thence 
)ou  can  now  and  then  pass  into  the  city,  where  you  will  find  a 
great  field  of  merit.  In  the  country,  men  are,  of  their  own 
nature,  harmless — or,  at  least,  not  involved  in  such  enormous 
crimes  —so  that  the  hand  of  an  ordinary  physician  will  suffice 
for  them ;  whereas,  in  the  city,  both  on  account  of  the  multi- 
tude of  the  diseases  and  their  inveteracy,  no  physician  but  the 
most  skilled  can  do  any  good. 

"There  come  sometimes  into  the  pulpit  of  St.  Paul's  some 
who  i^romise  health ;  yet,  when  they  seem  to  have  preached 
beautifully,  their  life  is  so  contrary  to  their  words  that  they 
irritate  our  wounds  rather  than  cure  them.  For  they  cannot 
persuade  us  to  believe  them  fit  to  have  the  cure  of  other  men's 
diseases  entrusted  to  them  when  they  are  themselves  more  sick 
than  any.  No  ;  we  get  angry,  and  refuse  to  allow  our  wounds 
to  be  touched  by  those  whose  own  wounds  are  ulcers.  But  if, 
as  naturalists  afiirm,  the   physician  in  whom   the  patient  has 

*  dpi^wuos  ille  circulus. 

48  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

perfect  confidence  is  the  one  likely  to  cure,  there  is  no  doubt 
that  there  is  no  one  more  Jit  than  yourself  to  undertake  the 
cure  of  this  whole  city.  How  ready  all  are  to  put  themselves 
in  your  hands — to  trust  and  obey  you — you  have  already  found 
by  experience,  and  at  the  present  time  their  longing  and  eager 
desire  proves. 

"  Come,  then,  my  dear  Colet,  even  for  the  sake  of  your 
Stepney,  which  laments  your  long  absence  as  an  infant  does 
its  mother's ;  come  for  the  sake  of  [London]  your  native  place, 
which  merits  your  care  no  less  than  do  your  parents.  Lastly, 
though  this  is  but  a  feeble  motive,  let  your  regard  for  me  move 
you,  since  I  have  given  myself  entirely  to  you,  and  am  awaiting 
your  return  full  of  solicitude.  Meanwhile  I  shall  pass  my  time 
with  Grocyn,  Linacre  and  our  friend  Lilly  :  the  first  of  whom 
is,  as  you  know,  the  only  director  of  my  life  in  your  absence ; 
the  second,  the  master  of  my  studies ;  the  third,  my  most  dear 
companion.  Farewell,  and  continue  to  love  me  as  you  do. — 
From  London,  the  loth  November." 

As  Colet  resigned  the  cure  of  Stepney  on  21st  September, 
1505,  this  letter  could  not  have  been  written  later  than  1504, 
nor  can  it  have  an  earlier  date,  since  only  in  that  year  had  he 
begun  to  preach  in  St.  Paul's.  More,  therefore,  was  twenty-six 
years  old.  If  the  letter  has  a  little  of  ihe  tone  of  a  boy's 
theme,  it  must  be  remembered  that  it  was  written  in  Latin,  which 
suggested  a  literary  exercise  with  its  classical  allusions,  rather 
than  the  familiar  language  of  the  heart.  This  was  a  natural 
reaction  after  the  vernacular  barbarisms  of  the  last  century,  as 
seen  in  the  Paston  letters.  At  a  more  advanced  age  More  did 
not  disdain  to  write  in  English  when  addressing  an  Englishman, 
though  he  wrote  occasionally  in  Latin  to  his  own  daughters  as 
an  exercise  or  encouragement  to  them. 

The  rhetorical  style  of  the  letter  just  quoted  seems  to  justify 
a  suspicion  of  exaggeration  in  the  picture  of  the  great  preachers 
who  had  the  coveted  honour  of  appearing  in  the  pulpit  of  St. 
Paul's.     They  can  scarcely  have  been  all  mere  sounding  brass 


or  tinkling  cymbals.  In  any  case  too  much  has  been  sometimes 
made  of  More's  expressions,  which  imply  pride  and  ostentation 
rather  than  immorality.* 

Having  seen  in  this  letter  More's  practice  of  frequent  con- 
fession, a  practice  to  which  he  was  faithful  to  the  end  of  his  life, 
it  will  help  us  to  estimate  a  peculiarity  of  More's  character  if  I 
place  here  a  specimen  of  his  epigrams,  probably  composed 
about  this  time.    The  following  translation  is  very  literal :— f 

A  squall  arose  ;  the  vessel's  tossed  ; 

The  sailors  fear  their  lives  are  lost. 

"  Our  sins,  our  sins,"  dismayed  they  cry, 

"  Have  wrought  this  fatal  destiny !  " 

A  monk,  it  chanced,  was  of  the  crew, 

And  round  him  to  confess  they  drew. 

Yet  still  the  restless  ship  is  tossed, 

And  still  they  fear  their  lives  are  lost. 

One  sailor,  keener  than  the  rest, 

Cries,  "With  our  sins  she's  still  oppressed; 

Heave  out  that  monk  who  bears  them  all. 

And  then  full  well  she'll  ride  the  squall  ". 

So  said,  so  done ;  with  one  accord 

They  threw  the  caitiff  overboard ; 

And  now  the  bark  before  the  gale 

Scuds  with  light  hull  and  easy  sail. 

Learn  hence  the  weight  of  sin  to  know, 
With  which  a  ship  could  scarcely  go. 

These  good-humoured  and  innocent  lines  Mr.  Seebohm  gives 
as  "a  sample  of  the  epigrams  in  which  the  pent-up  bitter 
thoughts  of  the  past  year  or  two  were  making  their  escape. 

*  The  criticism  strikes  one  as  not  too  charitable,  and  exemplifies  what 
More  himself  says  about  readiness  to  find  fault  (see  supra,  p.  33).  Men 
openly  immoral  could  hardly  be  invited  to  occupy  that  pulpit,  and  to  accuse 
them  of  secret  immoralities  would  be  grave  slander.  Perhaps,  after  all, 
this  letter  may  be  simply  a  first  draft  from  which  Stapleton  printed. 

tit  is  by  Archdeacon  Wrangham,  and  was  printed  in  Cayley's  Life 
of  More. 


50  SIR    THOMAS    MORP:. 

Some  were  on  priests  and  monks — sharp  biting  satires  on  their 
evil  side,  and  by  no  means  showing  abject  faith  in  monkhood."* 

Another  writer,  with  equally  portentous  gravity,  observes : 
"  Among  the  Epigrammata  we  find  one  upon  the  subject  of 
auricular  confession  which  no  strict  adherent  to  the  Church  of 
Rome  would  have  ventured  to  circulate  among  his  friends,  and 
much  less  to  print  ".t 

No  doubt  these  writers  are  sincere  in  their  criticism.  The 
anonymous  author  of  Philoniorus^  though  very  friendly  to  More, 
perhaps  I  should  rather  say,  because  very  friendly,  thinks  he  was 
at  least  half  sceptical  as  regards  certain  Catholic  doctrines  and 
practices,  and  that  if  he  had  lived  till  now  he  would  have  been 
a  good  Anglican.  Mr.  Seebohm  first  imagines  More  a  disgusted 
and  disappointed  man,  and  then  takes  a  bit  of  simple  fun  for 
"  biting  satire  on  the  monks".  But  surely,  if  there  is  any  biting 
satire  here,  it  is  on  the  sailors,  not  on  the  monk.  The  monk? 
in  presence  of  death,  calmly  and  courageously  performs  a 
difficult  duty,  and  shows  his  entire  conviction  of  what  he  had 
always  taught.  There  is  no  more  satire  on  the  monks  than  in 
the  old  lines  : — 

When  the  devil  was  sick,  the  devil  a  monk  would  be, 
When  the  devil  got  well,  the  devil  a  monk  was  he. 

I  draw  attention,  however,  to  this  epigram  and  the  comments  of 
modern  Protestant  writers,  not  to  defend  or  explain  these  lines, 
but  because  More  so  frequently  indulged  in  such  jokes  and 
tales  that  to  some  he  appears  sceptical,  and  to  others  supersti- 
tious. "  It  is  indeed  most  wonderful,"  exclaims  one  biographer, 
"  that  at  no  period  of  his  life  did  a  ray  of  that  light  that  was  now 
breaking  upon  the  world  penetrate  his  mind.  With  talents* 
learning,  and  wit  far  beyond  his  contemporaries,  he  was  also 
far  beyond  them  in  religious  bigotry  and  superstition."].  Yet 
this   blind  bigot  is  claimed  by  others  as  a  forerunner  of  the 

*  Oxford  Reformers,  p.  i8i.  f  Philoiiioriis,  p.  127. 

J  Writer  in  Chalmer's  Dictionary  of  Biography. 


Reformation,  or  the  teacher  of  a  deeper  and  more  fundamental 
Reformation  than  that  which  has  usurped  the  name.*  Neither 
party  seems  to  understand  that  a  man  can  beheve  earnestly, 
even  so  as  to  be  willing  to  die  for  his  faith,  and  yet  talk  and 
write  easily  and  merrily  about  it.  "Protestants,"  says  Cardinal 
Newman,  "  keep  the  exhibition  of  their  faith  for  high  days  and 
great  occasions,  when  it  comes  forth  with  sufficient  pomp  and 
gravity  of  language,  and  ceremonial  of  manner.  Truths  slowly 
totter  out  with  Scripture  texts  at  their  elbow,  as  unable  to  walk 
alone.  .  .  .  Protestants  condemn  Catholics,  because,  however 
religious  they  may  be,  they  are  natural,  unaffected,  easy  and 
cheerful  in  their  mention  of  sacred  things ;  and  they  think 
themselves  never  so  real  as  when  they  are  especially  solemn." f 
It  will  be  necessary  to  say  more  on  this  subject  when  we 
consider  how  the  Encomiicrn  Morice  was  written  by  Erasmus  in 
More's  house,  and  with  his  approbation  and  encouragement, 
and  when  we  consider  More's  style  of  controversy.  Enough 
has  been  said  for  my  present  purpose,  which  is  not  to  defend 
More,  who  needs  no  defence,  much  less  to  defend  anything 
Catholic,  but  to  utter  a  protest  against  the  sincere  but  most 
groundless  and  unreasonable  deductions  made  from  More's  acts 
or  words  at  this  crisis  of  his  life.  We  may  now  study  him  as  a 
married  man  and  a  lawyer. 

'"'  This  is  Mr.  Seebohm's  thesis. 

t  Lectures  on  Difficulties  felt  by  Anglicans  {Led.  ix.  n.  7). 



MORE  had  sought  earnestly  to  discover  the  will  of  God  re- 
garding the  disposition  of  his  life.  He  had  a  thorough 
determination  to  serve  God  with  his  whole  heart, 
whatever  might  be  his  state.  He  had  felt  himself  drawn  in 
two  opposite  directions  :  to  the  married  life,  which  involved  the 
profession  of  the  law  to  which  his  father  had  dedicated  him, 
but  for  which  he  felt  no  attraction ;  and  to  the  life  of  a  priest, 
or,  perhaps,  of  a  monk.  His  literary  education  and  his  taste 
for  letters  fitted  him  for  either  life.  Learning  was  no  longer 
confined  to  ecclesiastics,  though  they  still  formed  by  far  the 
majority  of  studious  and  cultured  men.  He  had  a  profound 
piety;  but  piety  befits  the  laity  no  less  than  the  clergy. 
At  length,  after  many  counsels  and  much  prayer,  his 
decision  was  taken.  Having  seen  that  he  was  called  to 
the  married  state,  it  remained  for  him  to  seek  for  a  lady 
who  should  be  a  suitable  partner  of  his  life,  for  no  previous 
inclination  of  the  heart  had  led  him  to  set  aside  the  state 
of  celibacy. 

It  seems  probable,  indeed,  that  there  had  been  some 
transient  attachment  in  early  youth,  but  it  w^as  altogether  past 
and  could  never  have  been  very  serious.  In  a  Latin  poem 
among  his  Epigrams  he  tells  us  his  little  romance  : — 

Scarce  had  I  bid  my  sixteenth  summer  hail, 
And  two  in  thine  were  wanting  to  the  tale, 


When  thy  soft  mien — ah,  mien  for  ever  fled  ! — 
On  my  tranced  heart  its  guiltless  influence  shed. 

The  premature  passion  caused  some  amusement  among  his 
companions  and  indignation  in  the  young  lady's  relatives,  for 
More  at  that  time  was  but  a  poor  law  student  at  New  Inn. 

Then  the  duenna  and  the  guarded  door 
Baffled  the  stars,  and  bade  us  meet  no  more. 

They  did  not  meet  again  until  five-and-twenty  years  had 
past.  ]More  was  then  married  for  the  second  time,  and  the 
lady's  charms  had  passed  away ;  but  the  poet  elegantly  described 
the  impression  made  by  the  meeting : — 

Crimeless,  my  heart  you  stole  in  life's  soft  prime, 
And  still  possess  that  heart  without  a  crime ; 
Pure  was  the  love  which  in  my  youth  prevailed, 
And  age  would  keep  it  pure  if  honour  failed.* 

There  was  very  little  romance  connected  with  either  his  first 
or  second  marriage.  Both  wives  were  rather  short  in  stature, 
and  when  More  was  asked  why  he  had  not  selected  taller 
women  he  replied,  rather  in  the  spirit  of  his  father  :  "  Of  two 
evils  you  should  choose  the  less  ".+  This,  of  course,  was  a 
mere  joke,  and  Roper  has  given  the  true  history  of  his  first 
courtship,  as  he  heard  it  from  More's  own  lips,  after  the  death 
of  the  lady  :  "  He  resorted  to  the  house  of  one  Mr.  Colt,  a 
gentleman  of  Essex,:}:  that  had  often  invited  him  thither,  having 
three  daughters,  whose  honest  conversation  and  virtuous  educa- 
tion provoked  him  there  specially  to  set  his  affection.  And, 
albeit  his  mind  most  served  him  to  the  second  daughter,  for 

*  Wrangham's  translation.  The  poem  is  not  in  the  first  edition  of 
the  Epigrams  of  15 18,  but  in  the  second  of  1520.  It  was  written  in  15 19, 
when  twenty-five  years  {quinquc  lustra)  had  passed  since  he  was  sixteen  ; 
another  proof  that  he  was  born  in  1478. 

t  Stapleton,  ch.  xiii. 

*  Cresacre  says,  of  Newhall  in  Essex. 

54  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

that  he  thought  her  the  fairest  and  best  favoured,  yet  when  he 
considered  that  it  would  be  both  great  grief  and  some  shame 
to  the  eldest  to  see  her  younger  sister  preferred  before  her  in 
marriage,  he  then  of  a  certain  pity*  framed  his  fancy  to  her, 
and  soon  after  married  her."  The  young  lady's  Christian 
name  was  Joan  or  Jane. 

"She  was  very  young,"  says  Erasmus,  "of  good  family,  with 
a  mind  somewhat  uncultivated,  having  always  resided  in  the 
country  with  her  parents  and  sisters ;  but  she  was  all  the  more 
apt  to  be  moulded  according  to  his  habits.  He  took  care  to 
have  her  instructed  in  learning,  and  especially  in  all  musical 
accomplishments,  and  had  made  her  such  that  he  could  have 
willingly  passed  his  whole  life  with  her,  but  a  premature  death 
separated  them."  His  affection  is  shown  by  one  little  word  in 
his  own  epitaph,  composed  more  than  twenty  years  after  her 
death.  He  calls  her  More's  dear  little  wife  {icxorcida  Mori). 
It  is  curious  that  love  of  books  and  love  of  music,  on  the  part 
of  a  wife,  are  two  of  the  components  of  conjugal  happiness 
mentioned  by  More  in  his  poem  to  Candidus,  of  which  the 
title  is,  "  What  sort  of  wife  to  choose  ".  She  must  neither  be 
too  talkative  nor  too  taciturn,  but  she  must  sing  and  she  must 

Far  from  her  lips'  soft  door 

Be  noise,  be  silence  stern, 
And  her's  be  learning's  store, 

Or  her's  the  power  to  learn ; 
While  still  thy  raptured  gaze 

Is  on  her  features  hung, 
As  words  of  honied  grace 

Steal  from  her  honied  tongue. 

*  Sir  James  Mackintosh  defends  the  use  of  the  word  "pity"  from  the 
charge  of  being  ungallant.  It  signifies,  he  says,  "  the  natural  refinement, 
which  shrinks  from  humbling  the  harmless  self-complacency  of  an 
innocent  girl". 


Such  Orpheus'  wife,  whose  fate 

With  tears  old  fables  tell, 
Or  never  would  her  mate 

Have  fetched  her  back  from  hell.' 

After  his  marriage  More  went  to  live  in  Bucklesbury,  in  the 
parish  of  St.  Stephen,  Wallbrook.t  From  tliis  marriage  sprang 
four  children  :  Margaret,  Elizabeth,  Cecily,  and  John.  Mar- 
garet, the  eldest,  was  born  towards  the  end  of  1505  or  early  in 
1506;  John,  the  youngest,  in  1509.:}:  After  about  six  years  of 
happy  married  life  his  wife  died,  seemingly  in  childbirth. § 
Within  two  or  three  years,  according  to  Cresacre,  or  as 
Erasmus,  better  informed,  says  :  "  within  a  few  months  of  the 
death  of  his  wife  "  he  married  again. 

Of  this  second  marriage  and  of  the  education  of  his  family  I 
shall  speak  later  on.  This  seems  the  place  to  give  some 
account  of  the  man  himself:  his  appearance,  his  habits,  and  his 
general  character.  Fortunately  his  portrait  has  been  drawn  by 
a  master  hand,  and  by  one  who  drew  from  the  life  and  not 
from  the  report  of  others.     It  is  in  a  letter  of  Erasmus  to  Von 

*  Proculque  stulta  sit  Talem  olim  ego  putem 

Parvis  labellulis  Et  vatis  Orphei 

Semper  loquacitas  ;  Fuisse  conjugem  ; 

Proculque  rusticum  Nee  unquam  ab  inferis 

Semper  silentium.  Curasset  improbo 

Sit  ilia  vel  modo  Lahore  foeminam 

Instructa  literis  Referre  rusticam. 

Vel  talis  ut  modo 

Sit  apta  literis 
*       *       *       * 

t  "  In  the  paryshe  of  St.  Stephen's,  Wallbroke,  in  London,  where  I 
dwelled  before  I  come  to  Chelsith"  {English  Works,  p.  131).  Bucklesbury 
is  just  south  of  the  Poultry,  Cheapside. 

*  The  precise  dates  are  unknown,  but  the  calculation  is  made  from 
their  ages  marked  on  the  Basle  picture. 

^  Erasmus  hints  at  a  dead  child  :  "  liberos  aliquot,  quorum  adhuc  super- 
sunt  puell^  tres,  puer  unus  ". 

56  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Hutten.  Erasmus,  as  we  have  seen,  had  known  and  loved 
More  as  a  youth.  After  about  six  years'  absence  from  England 
he  returned  to  find  More  married.  They  renewed  their  friend- 
ship and  pursued  their  Greek  studies  together.  The  letter  that 
I  am  about  to  translate  was  not  written  until  15 19,  by  which 
time,  from  several  years'  residence  in  England,  and  much  inter- 
course with  More,  Erasmus  had  ample  opportunity  to  strengthen 
or  to  correct  his  first  impressions.  Of  these  visits  and  this 
intercourse  much  will  be  said.  The  picture  which  we  are  about 
to  contemplate  does  not  belong  to  one  year  more  than  another, 
but  is  that  of  More's  manhood  before  he  had  risen  to  high 
dignity  at  court. 

Ulrich  von  Hutten,  a  German  noble,  who  subsequently 
proved  himself  to  have  little  resemblance  with  More,*  had 
been  so  charmed  by  his  Epigrams^  his  translations  from  Lucian, 
and  his  Utopia,  that  he  wrote  to  their  common  friend  Erasmus, 
begging  him  to  tell  him  all  he  knew  concerning  the  brilliant 
Englishman.  I  will  give  his  answer  without  modifying  a 
syllable,  but  omitting  a  few  sentences  that  are  unim[)ortant  or 
quoted  by  me  elsewhere : — 

"  You  ask  me  to  paint  you  a  full-length  portrait  of  More  as 
in  a  picture.  "Would  that  I  could  do  it  as  perfectly  as  you 
eagerly  desire  it.  At  least  I  will  try  to  give  a  sketch  of  the 
man,  as  well  as  from  my  long  familiarity  with  him  I  have  either 
observed  or  can  now  recall.  To  begin,  then,  with  what  is  least 
known  to  you,  in  stature  he  is  not  tall,  though  not  remarkably 
short.  His  limbs  are  formed  with  such  perfect  symmetry  as  to 
leave  nothing  to  be  desired.  His  comi)lexion  is  white,  his  face 
fair  rather  than  pale,  and  though  by  no  means  ruddy,  a  faint 
flush  of  pink  appears  beneath  the  whiteness  of  his  skin.  His 
hair  is  dark  brown,  or  brownish  black.      The  eyes  are  grayish 

*  In  quadam  epistola  confero  ilium  (Huttenum)  cum  Thoma  Moro, 
quo  viro  multis  jam  sa^culis  nihil  vidit  sol  integrius,  candidius,  amicius, 
cordatius.  Hujus  se  vehementer  dissimilem  probavit  Hut'enus,  meque 
vanum  praconem  fecit  (Erasm.  Ep.  ad  Botzhcnuim). 


blue,  with  some  spots,  a  kind  which  betokens  singular  talent, 
and  among  the  English  is  considered  attractive,  whereas 
Germans  generally  prefer  black.  It  is  said  that  none  are  so 
free  from  vice. 

"  His  countenance  is  in  harmony  with  his  character,  being 
always  expressive  of  an  amiable  joyousness,  and  eveu  an 
incipient  laughter,  and,  to  speak  candidly,  it  is  better  framed 
for  gladness  than  for  gravity  and  dignity,  though  without  any 
approach  to  folly  or  buffoonery.  The  right  shoulder  is  a  little 
higher  than  the  left,  especially  when  he  walks.  This  is  not  a 
defect  of  birth,  but  the  result  of  habit,  such  as  we  often  con- 
tract.* In  the  rest  of  his  person  there  is  nothing  to  offend. 
His  hands  are  the  least  refined  part  of  his  body. 

"He  was  from  his  boyhood  always  most  careless  about  what- 
ever concerned  his  body.  His  youthful  beauty  may  be  guessed 
from  what  still  remains,  though  I  knew  him  when  he  was  not 
more  than  three-and-twenty.f  Even  now  he  is  not  much  over 
forty.  He  has  good  health,  though  not  robust ;  able  to 
endure  all  honourable  toil,  and  subject  to  very  few  diseases. 
He  seems  to  promise  a  long  life,  as  his  father  still  survives  in  a 
wonderfully  green  old  age. 

"  I  never  saw  anyone  so  indifferent  about  food.  Until  he 
was  a  young  man  he  delighted  in  drinking  water,  but  that  was 
natural  to  him  {id  illi patrium  fuit).  Yet  not  to  seem  singular 
or  morose,  he  would  hide  his  temperance  from  his  guests  by 
drinking  out  of  a  pewter  vessel  beer  almost  as  light  as  water,  or 
often  pure  water.  It  is  the  custom  in  England  to  pledge  each 
other  in  drinking  wine.       In  doing  so  he  will  merely  touch  it 

*  "  Such  men  be  even  like  followers  of  Chaucer  and  Petrarch  as  one 
here  in  England  did  follow  Sir  Thomas  More  ;  who,  being  most  unlike 
unto  him  in  wit  and  learning,  nevertheless  in  wearing  his  gown  awry 
upon  the  one  shoulder,  as  Sir  Thomas  was  wont  to  do,  would  needs  be 
counted  like  unto  him  "  (Roger  Ascham,  The  Schoolmaster,  p.  2i6  ; 
ed.  1SS4). 

t  More  was  not  yet  twenty  when  Erasmus  first  made  his  acquaintance. 

58  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

with  his  Hps,  not  to  seem  to  dishke  it,  or  to  fall  in  with  the 
custom.  He  likes  to  eat  corned  beef  and  coarse  bread  much 
leavened,  rather  than  what  most  people  count  delicacies. 
Otherwise  he  has  no  aversion  to  what  gives  harmless  pleasure 
to  the  body.  He  prefers  milk  diet  and  fruits,  and  is  especially 
fond  of  eggs. 

''  His  voice  is  neither  loud  nor  very  weak,  but  penetrating  ; 
not  resounding  or  soft,  but  that  of  a  clear  speaker.  Though 
he  delights  in  every  kind  of  music  he  has  no  vocal  talents.* 
He  speaks  with  great  clearness  and  perfect  articulation,  without 
rapidity  or  hesitation.  He  likes  a  simple  dress,  using  neither 
silk  nor  purple  nor  gold  chain,  except  when  it  may  not  be 
omitted.  It  is  wonderful  how  negligent  he  is  as  regards  all  the 
ceremonious  forms  in  which  most  men  make  politeness  to  con- 
sist. He  does  not  require  them  from  others,  nor  is  he  anxious 
to  use  ihem  himself,  at  interviews  or  l)anquets,  though  he  is 
not  unacquainted  with  them  when  necessary.  But  he  thinks 
it  unmanly  to  spend  much  time  in  such  trifles.  Formerly  he 
was  most  averse  to  the  frequentation  of  the  court,  for  he  has 
a  great  hatred  of  constraint  Uy?'aiuiis)  and  loves  equality.  Not 
without  much  trouble  he  was  drawn  into  the  court  of  Henry 
Vni.,  though  nothing  more  gentle  and  modest  than  that 
prince  can  be  desired.  By  nature  More  is  chary  of  his  liberty 
and  of  ease,  yet,  though  he  enjoys  ease,  no  one  is  more  alert 
or  patient  w^hen  duty  requires  it. 

"  He  seems  born  and  framed  for  friendship,  and  is  a  most 
faithful  and  enduring  friend.  He  is  easy  of  access  to  all ;  but 
if  he  chances  to  get  familiar  with  one  whose  vices  admit  no 
correction,  he  manages  to  loosen  and  let  go  the  intimacy  rather 
than  to  break  it  off  suddenly.  When  he  finds  any  sincere  and 
according  to  his  heart,  he  so  delights  in  their  society  and  con- 
versation as  to  place  in  it  the  principal  charm  of  life.  He 
abhors  games  of  tennis,  dice,  cards,  and  the  like,   by   which 

*  He  could,  however,  sing  with  the  choir  in  the  church. 


most  gentlemen  kill  time.  Though  he  is  rather  too  negligent 
of  his  own  interests,  no  one  is  more  diligent  in  those  of  his 
friends.*  In  a  word,  if  you  want  a  perfect  model  of  friendship, 
you  will  find  it  in  no  one  better  than  in  More.  In  society  he 
is  so  polite,  so  sweet-mannered,  that  no  one  is  of  so  melancholy 
a  disposition  as  not  to  be  cheered  by  him,  and  there  is  no  mis- 
fortune that  he  does  not  alleviate.  Since  his  boyhood  he  has 
so  delighted  in  merriment,  that  it  seems  to  be  part  of  his  nature  ; 
yet  he  does  not  carry  it  to  buffoonery,  nor  did  he  ever  like 
biting  pleasantries.  When  a  youth  he  both  wrote  and  acted 
some  small  comedies.  If  a  retort  is  made  against  himself,  even 
without  ground,  he  likes  it  from  the  pleasure  he  finds  in  witty 
repartees.  Hence  he  amused  himself  with  composing  epigrams 
when  a  young  man,  and  enjoyed  Lucian  above  all  writers.  In- 
deed, it  was  he  who  pushed  me  to  write  the  "  Praise  of  Folly," 
that  is  to  say,  he  made  a  camel  frisk. 

"  In  human  affairs  there  is  nothing  from  which  he  does  not 
extract  enjoyment,  even  from  things  that  are  most  serious.  If 
he  converses  with  the  learned  and  judicious,  he  delights  in 
their  talent ;  if  with  the  ignorant  and  foolish,  he  enjoys  their 
stupidity.  He  is  not  even  offended  by  professional  jesters. 
With  a  wonderful  dexterity  he  accommodates  himself  to  every 
disposition.  As  a  rule,  in  talking  with  women,  even  with  his 
own  wife,  he  is  full  of  jokes  and  banter. 

"  No  one  is  less  led  by  the  opinions  of  the  crowd,  yet  no  one 
departs  less  from  common  sense.  One  of  his  great  delights  is 
to  consider  the  forms,  the  habits,  and  the  instincts  of  different 
kinds  of  animals.  There  is  hardly  a  species  of  bird  that  he 
does  not  keep  in  his  house,  and  rare  animals  such  as  monkeys, 
foxes,  ferrets,  weasels  and  the  like.  If  he  meets  with  anything 
foreign,  or  in  any  way  remarkable,  he  eagerly  buys  it,  so  that 
his  house  is  full  of  such  things,  and  at  every  turn  they  attract 

*  Several  of  the  letters  of  Erasmus  show  that  More  acted  as  his  banker 
and  postmaster. 

6o  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

the  eye  of  visitors,  and  his  own  pleasure  is  renewed  whenever 
he  sees  others  pleased." 

The  letter  goes  on  to  describe  More's  literary  pursuits  and 
his  care  and  education  of  his  family.  For  these  passages  a 
more  convenient  place  will  be  found.  To  complete  what 
Erasmus  has  said  of  his  personal  habits,  I  will  add  some  ex- 
tracts from  Stapleton,  whose  testimony  in  these  matters  is 
almost  as  authentic  as  that  of  Erasmus,  being  derived  from 
members  of  More's  family.  He  enters  into  details  concerning 
More's  practices  of  piety,  which  it  would  have  been  an  im- 
pertinence in  Erasmus  to  relate  during  his  friend's  lifetime, 
especially  in  writing  to  a  man  like  Ulrich  von  Hutten,  who 
had  little  sympathy  with  such  things. 

But  let  us  first  hear  More  himself  describe  the  division   of 
his  day,  and  his  view  of  the  duties  of  a  man  of  the  world.     His 
words  in  the  Preface  to  his  Utopia  are  as  follows  :  "While  I  do 
daily  bestow  my  time  about  law  matters — some  to  plead,  some 
to  hear,  some  as  an  arbitrator  with  mine  award  to  determine, 
some  as  an  umpire  or  a  judge  with  my  sentence  finally  to  dis- 
cuss ;  while  I  go  one  way  to  see  and  visit  my  friend ;  another 
way  about  mine  own  private  affairs;  while  I  spend  almost  all 
the  day  abroad  amongst  other,  and  the  residue  at  home  amongst 
my  own  ;   I  leave  to  myself,  I  mean  to  my  book,  no  time.    For 
when  I  am  come  home  I  must  commune  with  my  wife,  chat 
with  my  children,  and  talk  with  my  servants.     xA.ll  the  which 
things  I  reckon  and  account  among  business,  forasmuch  as  they 
must  of  necessity  be  done ;  and  done  must  they  needs  be,  un- 
less a  man  will  be  a  stranger  in  his  own  house.     And  in  any 
wise  a  man  must  so  fashion  and  order  his  conditions,  and  so 
appoint  and  dispose   himself,  that  he  be  merry,  jocund,  and 
pleasant  among  them,  whom   either  nature  has  provided,  or 
chance  hath  made,  or  he  himself  hath  chosen  to  be  the  fellows 
and  companions  of  his  life.   .   .  .  When  do  I  write,  then  ?  and 
all  this  while  have  I  spoken  no  word  of  sleep,  neither  yet  of 
meat,  which  among  a  great  number  doth  waste  no  less  time 


than  doth  sleep — wherein  almost  half  the  lifetime  of  man  creepeth 
away.  I,  therefore,  do  win  and  get  only  that  time  which  I  steal 
from  sleep  and  meat."  * 

From  this  we  might  conjecture  that  Thomas  More  kept  late 
hours,  that  he  remained  studying  when  others  had  retired  to 
rest.  He  adopted  a  much  wiser  course.  Those  were  indeed 
days  of  early  rising  and  early  sleeping  according  to  our  notions. 
But  More's  hours  were  extraordinary  even  then.  Stapleton  says  : 
*'  His  custom  was  not  to  give  more  than  four,  or  at  most  five, 
hours  to  sleep.  He  used  to  rise  at  two  o'clock  in  the  morning, 
nnd  until  seven  to  give  himself  to  study  and  devotion,  f 

"  Every  day  before  any  other  business — his  very  early  studies 
alone  excepted — he  used  to  hear  Mass.  This  duty  he  so 
strictly  observed,  that  when  summoned  once  by  the  king  at  a 
time  when  he  was  assisting  at  Mass,  and  sent  for  a  second  and 
third  time,  he  would  not  go  until  the  whole  Mass  was  ended  ; 
and  to  those  who  called  him  and  urged  him  to  go  at  once  to 
the  king  and  leave  the  Mass,  he  replied  that  he  was  paying  his 
court  to  a  greater  and  better  Lord,  and  must  first  perform  that 
duty.  Henry  was  then  pious  and  God-fearing,  and  did  not 
take  in  bad  part  this  piety  of  More. 

"  He  used,"  continues  Stapleton,  "  daily  to  recite  morning 
and  evening  prayers,  to  which  he  would  add  the  seven  peni- 
tential psalms  and  the  litanies. :]:  He  would  often  add  to  these 
the  gradual  psalms  and  the  psalm  Beati  Iiiwiaculati.  §  He 
had  also  a  collection  of  private  prayers,  some  in  Latin,  some  in 

*  Letter  to  Peter  Giles  (translation  of  Ralph  Robinson). 

t  Vita,  cap.  4. 

X  The  litanies  referred  to  by  Stapleton  are  those  now  called  the  Litany 
of  the  Saints.  As  found  in  the  Sarum  Breviaries  of  the  time  of  More, 
they  varied  for  each  day  of  the  week,  though  with  some  features  in  com- 
mon. The  number  of  saints  explicitly  named  was  much  greater 
than  at  present. 

§  There  are  fifteen  psalms  called  Gradual,  formerly  recited  by  all  priests 
on  the  Wednesdays  in  Lent,  now  only  by  monks.  The  psalm  Bcati  is 
the  very  long  118th  psalm,  which  is  daily  recited  in  the  morning  hours. 

62  bIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

English,  as  may  be  seen  in  his  Enghsh  works.  He  had  made 
up  also,  imitating  in  this  St.  Jerome  and  others,  a  small 
psaltery  consisting  of  selected  psalms,  which  he  often  used. 
He  would  also  make  pilgrimages  to  holy  places,  sometimes 
seven  miles  from  his  house,  and  always  on  foot,  which  even  the 
common  people  scarcely  do  in  England."*  Among  these 
holy  places  near  London  would  be,  no  doubt,  Our  Lady  of  the 
Pew,  at  Westminster  ;  Our  Lady  of  Barking,  near  the  Tower ; 
Our  Lady  of  Willesden,  then  much  frequented ;  and  Our  Lady 
of  Grace,  near  the  Tovver.f  Besides  Our  Lady's  shrines  there 
were  many  others  then  much  venerated  in  London — as  the 
Rood  at  the  north  door  of  St.  Paul's,  the  Rood  called  St.  Saviour 
in  Southwark,  St.  Dominick  at  the  Black  Friars,  St.  Francis  at 
the  Grey  Friars,  etc.  At  a  later  period  Sir  Thomas  earnestly 
defended  the  practice  of  making  pilgrimages. 

"  Whenever  he  entered  on  a  new  office,  or  undertook  a 
difficult  business,  he  strengthened  himself  by  the  Holy  Com- 
munion."'    So  far  Stapleton.J 

Some  other  details  will  be  given  of  his  private  devotion  when 
we  come  to  his  life  at  Chelsea,  to  which  period  may  be  reserved 
what  has  been  handed  down  regarding  his  family  devotions  and 
his  co-operation  in  the  public  worship  in  his  parish  church,  as 
well  as  his  alms-giving. 

As  I  began  this  chapter  with  an  account  of  More's  earthl}' 
love,  and  have  come  now  to  speak  of  his  heavenly  love,  I  may 
conclude  by  a  few  words  from  his  translation  of  the  works  of 
Pico,  Count  of  Mirandula,  which  was  made  just  before,  or  at 
an  early  period  of,  his  married  life,  in  which  these  two  kinds  of 
love  are  compared.  I  would  beg  the  reader  who  wishes  seriously 
to  study  the  life  of  one  of  the  world's  best  and  greatest  men 
not  to  skip  the  following  passage  as  if  it  were  a  bit  of  laborious 

*  Vita,  cap.  6. 

t  The  abbey  near  the  Tower  called  Eastminster  was  destroyed  by 

t  Vita,  cap.  6. 


trifling  of  clever  men,  like  the  "  conceits "  of  Donne  or 
Cowley.  We  have  More's  ideal  of  human  and  Christian  life — 
an  ideal  which  he  never  changed,  and  which  he  strove  hard, 
and  not  unsuccessfully,  to  realise.  "  I'he  twelve  properties  or 
conditions  of  a  lover  "  given  by  Pico  are  these  : — 

1.  To  love  one  alone. 

2.  To  think  him  unhappy  that  is  not  with  his  love. 

3.  To  adorn  himself  for  the  pleasure  of  his  love. 

4.  To  suffer  all  things,  even  death,  to  be  with  his  love. 

5.  To  desire  to  suffer  shame  and  harm  for  his  love. 

6.  To  be  ever  with  his  love,  at  least  in  thought. 

7.  To  love  all  things  that  pertain  to  his  love. 

8.  To  covet  the  praise  of  his  love. 

9.  To  believe  of  his  love  all  things  excellent. 

[o.  To  weep  often  with  his  love  for  joy  or  sorrow. 

I T.  To  languish  and  burn  in  the  desire  of  his  love. 

12.  To  serve  his  love,  nothing  thinking  of  reward. 
Each  of  these  properties  is  developed  by  More  in  verse,  or,  as 
he  calls  it,  in  ballad — the  lover  of  God  taking  lessons  for 
himself  from  the  conduct,  and  even  fantasies,  of  earthly  lovers. 
I  must  be  content  here  with  one  specimen.  In  the  following 
stanzas  are  developed  the  second  "  property  "  of  the  twelve  : — 

Of  his  love,  lo  !  the  sight  and  company 
To  the  lover  so  glad  and  pleasant  is, 
That  whoso  hath  the  grace  to  come  thereby 
He  judgeth  him  in  perfect  joy  and  bliss  ; 
And  whoso  of  that  company  doth  miss, 
Live  he  in  never  so  prosperous  estate, 
He  thinketh  him  wretched — unfortunate. 

So  should  the  lover  of  God  esteem,  that  he 
Which  all  the  pleasure  hath,  mirth  and  disport 
That  in  this  world  is  possible  to  be, 
Yet  till  the  time  that  he  may  once  resort 
Unto  that  blessed,  joyful,  heavenly  port, 
Where  he  of  God  may  have  the  glorious  sight, 
Is  void  of  perfect  joy  and  sure  delight. 

64  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

We  have  seen  how  joyous  was  the  character  of  More  ;  we 
shall  see  that  his  whole  life,  until  the  last  great  catastrophe  (in 
a  worldly  sense),  was  continuous  happiness  and  prosperity. 
Yet  it  is  no  exaggeration  to  say  that  a  man  more  detached 
from  this  world  never  lived,  for  the  reason  that  his  mind  was 
entirely  set  upon  the  joy  that  can  never  fail.  In  the  letter  to 
Ulrich,  Erasmus  gives  the  following  emphatic  testimony : 
"  Although  in  so  many  respects  he  is  one  of  the  happiest  of 
men  (and  vainglory  generally  accompanies  happiness),  I  never 
yet  met  mortal  man  so  perfectly  free  from  this  vice.  .  .  . 
Without  the  least  taint  of  superstition,  he  is  earnest  in  all  true 
piety.  He  has  his  hours  set  apart  for  prayer — prayer  not  of 
routine,  but  from  the  heart.  With  his  friends  he  so  converses 
on  the  life  that  will  follow  this,  that  you  cannot  doubt  that  he 
speaks  from  the  heart  with  a  most  earnest  hope."  * 

*  Cum  amicis  sic  fabulatur  de  vita  futuri  saeculi  ut  agnoscas  ilium  ex 
animo  loqui,  neque  sine  optima  spe. 


WE  have  seen  More  promoted  to  the  rank  of  utter 
barrister,  and  chosen  for  the  honourable  office  of 
reader  in  an  Inn  of  Chancery.  This  is  not  to  be 
confounded  with  reader  at  an  Inn  of  Court.  The  latter  office 
demanded  much  higher  learning  and  ability,  and  was  reserved 
for  the  benchers.  The  Chancery  reader  had  for  his  audience 
young  students,  clerks,  and  attornies  :  the  reader  at  the  Inn 
of  Court,  his  brother  barristers,  and  even  the  judges.  After 
his  marriage,  says  Roper,  More  applied  himself  diligently  to 
the  study  of  the  law,  "until  he  was  called  to  the  bench,* 
and  had  read  ther^  twice,  which  is  as  often  as  any  judge  of  the 
law  doth  ordinarily  read''.  "This  office  of  reader,"  adds 
Stapleton,  writing  for  the  information  of  foreigners,  "is  most 
illustrious  in  England,  and  only  given  to  seniors,  and  never 
exercised  except  by  the  most  skilful,  the  rest  who  feel  them- 
selves unfit  purchasing  their  liberty  at  a  great  expense."  t 

It  was  not  until  after  the  accession  of  Henry  VIII.  that 
More  became  a  bencher.  His  first  reading  took  place  in  the 
autumn  of  15  ii,  his  second  in  Lent,  15 16.  J  On  3rd  Sep- 
tember, 1 5 1  o,  he  was  made  under-sheriff  of  London.  This  office 
was  in  many  respects  different  from  that  which  is  now  known 
by  the  same  name.  He  was  the  sheriff's  judicial  representa- 
tive, and  a  great  number  of  cases  came  under  his  jurisdiction. 
Hence  it  was  the  custom  for  the  Common  Council  to  select 

*  Made  bencher,  not  judge.  +  Vita,  cap.  2.  X  Foss. 


66  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

for  the  office  some  learned  lawyer,  who  continued  to  hold  it 
year  after  year  by  renomination.  "  I  conjecture,"  writes 
Lord  Campbell,  "  that  the  under-sheriff,  besides  his  other 
duties,  sat  in  the  court  of  the  Lord  Mayor  and  the  sheriffs, 
in  which  causes  of  importance  were  then  determined,  and  the 
jurisdiction  of  which,  by  the  process  of  foreign  attachment, 
was  very  extensive."  *  Erasmus,  who  resided  with  More 
while  he  was  under-sheriff,  gives  the  following  account : 
"  In  London  he  has  held  for  some  years  the  office  of  judge 
in  civil  causes.  The  office  is  noways  onerous,  for  the  judge 
sits  only  on  Thursdays,  and  during  the  forenoon,  but  it  is 
considered  very  honourable.  No  one  ever  concluded  more 
cases,  or  decided  them  with  greater  integrity.  He  often 
remits  the  fees  which  it  is  customary  for  the  suitors  to  pay. 
Before  the  opening  of  the  case  each  party  pays  in  three 
groats,  t  nor  is  it  allowed  to  demand  anything  further.  By 
his  way  of  acting  he  has  become  very  popular  with  the  citizens 
of  London.":}: 

By  his  private  practice  as  barrister,  and  by  his  official  position, 
he  made,  as  Roper  learnt  from  himself,  an  income  of  about 
^400  a  year,  equal  to  about  ^5000  in  our  own  time.  Yet 
Erasmus  says  :  "  No  one  was  ever  more  free  from  avarice. 
He  would  set  aside  from  his  income  for  his  children  what  he 
thought  sufficient,  and  the  remainder  he  used  bountifully. 
While  he  was  still  dependent  on  his  fees,  he  gave  to  all  true 
and  friendly  counsel,  considering  their  interests  rather  than 
his  own  ;  he  persuaded  many  to  settle  with  their  opponents  as 
the  cheaper  course.  If  he  could  not  induce  them  to  act  in 
that  manner — for  some  men  delight  in  litigation— he  would 
still  indicate  the  method  that  was  least  expensive."  §     Stapleton 

*  Lives  of  Chancellors  {More). 

t  Tres  drachmas — Harpsfield  translated  groats.     A  groat  =  4d. 
X  Letter   to    Ulrich.     The   office  of  under-sheriff  had  been   held  by 
Dudley,  Henry  VII. 's  evil  adviser  (Seebohm,  p.  192). 


adds  details  that  he  may  easily  iiave  gathered  from  Harris, 
who  had  been  More's  clerk  :  "  He  would  never  defend  a 
cause  until  he  had  thoroughly  examined  it,  and  discovered 
the  whole  truth.  He  used  to  advise  his  clients,  whether  they 
were  relations,  friends,  or  strangers— for  he  made  no  distinction 
—that  above  all  things  they  should  not  misrepresent  in  the 
very  least  the  facts  of  the  case.  After  he  had  listened  to 
them,  he  would  say :  '  If  the  case  is  as  you  report,  I  think  you 
will  gain  your  suit '.  But  if  their  cause  was  unjust,  he  told  them 
so  plainly,  and  exhorted  them  to  desist.  If  they  would  not 
listen  to  him,  he  told  them  to  seek  their  advocate  elsewhere."* 
He  became  the  most  popular  barrister  of  the  day,  according 
to  both  Erasmus  and  Roper,  and  ihe  king,  who  liked  to  have 
clever  men  in  his  service,  instructed  Wolsey  to  do  his  best  to 
attract  him.  His  efforts  were  at  first  unsuccessful,  for  More 
loved  his  liberty,  and  was  perfectly  contented  with  his  position. 
By  degrees,  however,  circumstances  forced  him  to  yield.  The 
London  merchants  had  controversies  with  those  of  the  Still- 
yard,  or  the  foreign  merchants  resident  in  London,  and  as 
these  claimed  treaties  in  their  favour,  it  was  necessary  to  send 
an  embassy  to  Flanders  to  the  Archduke  Charles  (afterwards 
emperor),  to  settle  the  questions  amicably.  The  Londoners 
had  so  much  trust  in  More  that  they  asked  the  king  to  allow 
him  to  represent  their  interests.  "Young  More,"  as  he  is  called 
by  Wolsey,t  no  doubt  in  distinction  from  his  father,  was 
put  in  the  commission  with  Cuthbert  Tunstall  (then  arch- 
deacon of  Chester),  Richard  Sampson  (another  ecclesiastic), 
Sir  Thomas  Spinelly  and  John  Clyfford.  I  He  left  England 
on  1 2th  May,  i5i5,§  and  was  absent  for  more  than  six  months, 

*  Vita.  cap.  3. 

t  Letters  and  Papers  of  Henry  VIII.,  vol.  ii.  n.  534. 

:J:  Rymer,  xiii.  497. 

§  Sirjames  Mackintosh  says  that  "  an  entry  in  the  city  records  states  that 
on  8th  May,  1514,  it  was  agreed  by  the  Common  Council  that  Thomas 
More,  gentleman,  one  of  the  under-sheriffs  of  London,  should   occupy 

68  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

residing  principally  in  Bruges,  Brussels,  and  Antwerp.  The 
diets  of  the  ambassadors  were  twenty  shillings  a  day,  those  of 
More  (as  the  junior  member),  only  13s.  4d.*  Payment  was 
made  in  advance  for  two  months,  but  as  the  embassy  was 
prolonged,  Tunstall  wrote  to  Wolsey  in  July  :  "  Master  More, 
as  being  at  a  low  ebb,  desires  by  Your  Grace  to  be  set  on  float 
again  ".  t  For  us,  the  interest  of  this  embassy  is  not  in  the 
questions  debated,  but  in  the  friendships  made  by  More  on 
the  Continent,  and  his  famous  Utopia^  which  was  begun  during 
his  stay  in  Flanders.  Postponing  for  a  time  the  consideration 
of  this  book,  let  us  first  follow  More  a  little  further  in  his 
external  life. 

Soon  after  his  return  he  wrote  to  Erasmus  a  long  letter,  of 
which  I  omit  only  some  business  matters  which  regarded  his 
friend  : — 

"  Since  you  left  us  J  I  have  received  in  all  three  letters  from 
you.  If  I  were  to  say  that  I  had  written  to  you  as  often, 
however  hard  I  should  lie,  you  would  probably  not  believe  me, 
since  you  know  how  indolent  I  am  in  letter-writing,  and  that  I 
am  not  so  superstitious  about  truth  as  to  hate  a  fib  in  all  re- 
spects like  murder.  Our  friend,  Pace,  is  engaged  on  an  em- 
bassy in  your  parts  ;  at  least,  if  he  is  not  exactly  with  you,  he 
is  away  from  here.  I  seem  to  have  lost  half  myself  by  his 
absence,  and  the  other  half  by  yours.  .  .  . 

''The  Archbishop  of  Canterbury  [Warham]  has  at  last  got 
free  from  his  ofiice  of  chancellor.     You  know  how  many  years 

his  office  and  chamber  by  a  sufficient  deputy,  during  his  absence  as  the 
king's  ambassador  in  Flanders".  If  so,  the  embassy  was  postponed  to 
1515.  I  can  find  no  mention  in  the  State  Papers  of  any  embassy  in  the 
preceding  year,  whereas  More  did  leave  England  early  in  May,  15 15. 
Sir  James,  however,  says  that  both  years  are  mentioned  in  the  City 
Records  {Life,  p.  68). 

*  Letters  and  Papers,  ii.  part  ii,  p.  1467,  p.  1468-1470,  also  n.  678. 

t  lb.  n.  679. 

J  Erasmus  had  made  one  of  his  short  visits  to  England  early  in  1515. 


he  sought  this  freedom.  The  king  has  appointed  the  Cardinal 
of  York  [Wolsey]  as  his  successor,  who  is  conducting  himself 
so  as  to  surpass  even  the  great  hopes  that  his  virtues  had 

"  You  will  be  glad  to  hear  that  our  legation  was  pretty  suc- 
cessful, except  that  it  dragged  on  much  longer  than  I  expected 
or  wished.  When  I  left  home  I  thought  I  should  be  away  for 
a  couple  of  months,  whereas  I  spent  more  than  six  in  the  lega- 
tion. However,  if  the  delay  was  long,  the  result  was  satisfac- 
tory. So  when  I  saw  the  business  for  which  I  had  come  con- 
cluded, and  that  other  affairs  were  likely  to  arise,  I  wrote  to 
the  cardinal  and  obtained  leave  to  return  home.  I  managed 
this  by  the  help  of  my  friends,  and  especially  of  Pace,  who  had 
not  then  left  England.  While  I  was  returning  I  met  him  un- 
expectedly at  Gravelines,  but  he  was  hurrying  on  so  fast 
that  we  had  barely  time  to  salute  each  other.  Tunstall  has 
lately  returned  to  England,  but  after  scarcely  ten  days'  interval) 
not  spent  in  rest,  but  most  tediously  and  anxiously,  in  giving 
a  report  of  his  legation,  he  is  now  forced  upon  another  embassy 
to  his  great  regret.  But  he  might  not  decline  it.  The  office 
of  ambassador  never  much  pleased  me.  It  does  not  seem  so 
suitable  to  us  laymen  as  to  you  priests,  who  have  no  wives 
and  children  to  leave  at  home,  or  who  find  them  wherever 
you  go.  When  we  have  been  a  short  time  away,  our  hearts 
are  drawn  back  by  the  longing  for  our  families.  Besides,  when 
a  priest  is  sent  out,  he  can  take  his  whole  household  with  him, 
and  maintain  them  at  the  king's  expense,  though,  when  at 
home,  he  had  to  provide  for  them  at  his  own  ;  but,  when  I  am 
away,  I  must  provide  for  a  double  household,  one  at  home,  the 
other  abroad.  A  liberal  allowance  was  granted  me  by  the  king 
for  the  servants  I  took  with  me,  but  no  account  was  taken  of 
those  whom  I  was  obliged  to  leave  at  home.     And  yet,  though 

*  He  became  chancellor  on  December  22,  1515.      He  had  been  made 
cardinal  on  September  10. 

70  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

you  know  what  a  fond  husband  I  am,  what  an  indulgent  father, 
and  gentle  master,  I  was  unable  to  prevail  on  them  for  my 
sake  to  remain  fasting  even  during  the  short  time  till  my  return 
home.  Lastly,  it  is  an  easy  matter  for  princes  to  reward  priests 
for  their  labours  and  expenses  by  ecclesiastical  promotions, 
without  any  cost  to  themselves.  There  is  no  such  rich  or  easy 
provision  for  us.  On  my  return,  an  annual  pension  was,  in- 
deed, apppointed  for  me  by  the  king,  and  one  by  no  means 
contemptible,  either  as  regards  the  honour  or  the  fruits,  yet 
hitherto  I  have  refused  it,  and  I  think  I  shall  continue  to  do 
so,  because,  if  I  accepted  it,  my  present  office  in  the  city,  which 
I  prefer  even  to  a  better  one,  would  either  have  to  be  resigned, 
or  else  retained  not  without  some  offence  to  the  citizens ;  which 
I  should  be  most  loth  to  give.  For,  should  any  question  arise 
between  them  and  the  king  about  their  privileges  (as  sometimes 
happens),  they  might  look  on  me  as  less  sincere  and  trust- 
worthy, being  bound  to  the  king  by  an  annual  pension.* 

"  However,  in  my  legation,  some  things  greatly  delighted  me. 
First,  the  living  so  long  and  continually  with  Tunstall,  a  man 
who,  w^hile  he  is  surpassed  by  none  in  culture,  nor  in  strictness 
of  life,  is  also  unequalled  in  sweetness  of  manners.  Next  I  ac- 
quired the  friendship  of  ])Usleyden,t  who  received  me  with  a 
magnificence  in  proportion  to  his  great  riches,  and  a  cordiality 
in  harmony  with  his  goodness  of  soul.  He  showed  me  his 
house  so  marvellously  built  and  splendidly  furnished,  and  so 
many  antiquities  in  which  you  know  my  curiosity  and  delight,  J 

""  It  seems,  however,  that  he  accepted  the  pension  (see  infra,  p.  76). 

t  Jerome  Busleyden  (Buslidius),  a  native  of  Luxembourg,  was  canon 
of  Liege,  Cambrai,  Malines,  and  Brussels,  provost  of  St.  Peter  at  Aire, 
maitrc  dcs  rcquctcs  and  counsellor,  ambassador  to  Julius  IL,  Francis  L, 
and  Henry  VIIL  He  died  in  1517.  He  was  founder  of  the  College  of 
the  Three  Languages  at  Louvain.  A  letter  of  his  is  prefixed  to  the 

X  Adhaec  tot  vetustatis  monumenta,  quorum  me  scis  esse  percupidum. 
Among  More's  epigrams  are  verses  on  Busleyden's  coins,  and  on  his 
house  at  Mechlin. 


and,  above  all,  his  library  so  well  filled,  and  his  breast  more 
richly  stocked  than  any  library,  so  that  he  fairly  bewildered  me. 
I  hear  that  he  is  about  to  undertake  an  embassy  to  our  king. 

"  But  in  all  my  travels  nothing  was  more  to  my  wishes  than 
my  intercourse  with  your  host,  Peter  Gigidius  [Giles]  of  i.\nt- 
werp,  a  man  so  learned,  witty,  modest,  and  so  true  a  friend, 
that  I  would  willingly  purchase  my  intimacy  with  him  at  the 
cost  of  a  great  part  of  my  fortune.  He  sent  to  me  your 
Apology^  and  your  commentary  on  the  Psalm  Beatus  Vir. 
Dorpius  has  had  your  letter  printed  and  prefixed  to  your 
Apology.  I  should  have  hked  to  meet  him,  but  as  I  could 
not,  I  sent  him  a  short  letter  ;  for  I  could  not  leave  without 
some  salutation  a  man  who  is  dear  to  me,  both  for  his  singular 
erudition,  and  for  many  other  reasons,  and  not  least,  that  by 
his  criticisms  of  your  Moria,  he  gave  you  the  occasion  to  write 
your  Apology.  I  rejoice  that  your  St.  Jeivme  and  your  New 
Testament  are  advancing  so  well ;  they  are  most  eagerly  ex- 
pected by  all.  Linacre  has  the  greatest  esteem  for  you,  and 
everywhere  talks  of  you.  This  I  have  heard  from  some  who 
were  present,  when,  at  supper  with  the  king,  he  spoke  of  you 
most  profusely  and  affectionately  ;  and  the  king  answered  in 
such  a  way  that  my  informers  were  of  opinion  that  some  emi- 
nent fortune  would  soon  be  bestowed  on  you.  I  pray  God  it 
may  be  so.  Farewell,  my  dear  Erasnms.  My  wife  salutes 
you,*  and  Clements,  who  makes  such  daily  progress  in  Latin 
and  Greek  literature,  that  I  entertain  no  slight  hope  that  he 
will  be  an  ornament  to  his  country  and  to  letters.  Farewell 
again,  and  be  contented  with  this  one  letter  for  many  months  ; 
for  in  it  I  have  imitated  misers,  who  rarely  give  entertainments, 
and  if  they  do  chance  to  give  a  dinner,  make  it  a  long  one,  so 
as  to  avoid  the  expense  of  frequent  invitations.  London, 

*  This  is  his  second  wife. 

t  There  is  no  date  of  the  month,  but  the  letter  must  have  been  written 
very  early  in  the  year  15 16. 

*J2  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

More  remained  in  England  throughout  the  year  1516.  He 
was  busy  in  the  preparation  of  his  Utopia  for  the  press,  and  in 
other  hterary  work,  which  will  be  mentioned  in  the  next 
chapter.  In  this  Lent  he  was  giving  his  second  course  of  legal 
lectures  in  Lincoln's  Inn.  Wolsey  was  endeavouring  to  bring 
him  to  court.  His  friend  Ammonio  writes,  on  17th  February, 
1516,  to  Erasmus:  "More,  having  honourably  accomplished 
his  embassy  in  Flanders  has  returned  home,  and  frequents  the 
court  with  us.  No  one  is  earlier  in  the  chancellor's  ante- 
chamber."* And  Erasmus  replies,  loth  March:  "I  am 
vexed  that  your  occupations  prevent  the  Muses  having  full 
possession  of  you.  I  see  that  More,  till  now  unconquered,  is 
being  carried  away  into  the  same  whirlwinds."  t  And  in  a 
letter  to  More  himself :  "  I  foresee  that  the  favourable  wind 
will  carry  you  away  from  us  ;  but  I  resign  myself,  since  it  will 
be  for  your  happiness  ".J  In  his  letter  to  Hutten,  Erasmus 
reiterates  that  More  was  altogether  unwilling  to  have  honours 
thrust  upon  him.  "  The  king,"  he  says,  "  really  dragged  him 
to  his  court.  No  one  ever  strove  more  eagerly  to  gain  ad- 
mission there  than  More  did  to  avoid  it." 

The  favour  with  which  he  was  regarded  both  by  the  king 
and  the  citizens  of  London  is  proved  by  his  having  been 
appointed  by  the  Privy  Council  to  appease  the  mob,  in  the 
great  riot  which  gained  for  the  ist  May,  15 17,  the  name  of 
Evil  May  Day.  The  jealousy  with  which  the  foreign  merchants 
were  regarded  by  the  English  merchants  and  apprentices  in 
London,  led  to  a  very  serious  outbreak  during  the  night  of  the 
30th  April.  The  aldermen  and  their  guards  had  fled  for  their 
lives  ;  prisons  were  being  broken  open  and  houses  plundered. 
In  the  midst  of  the  tumult,  however,  when  More  addressed 

*  Nemo  temperius  eo  matutinum  Eboracensi  portat  Ave  (Inter  Epist. 
Erasm.  236). 

t  Letter  21.  Erasmus  writes  from  Antwerp.  I  am  not  sure  that  he  had 
returned  so  soon  from  Basle.     Perhaps  the  letter  should  be  dated  1517. 

X  Letter  17,  in  App.  dated  ist  January,  1515  (probably  1517). 


the  rioters  near  St.  Martin's  Gate,  he  was  listened  to  with 
respect,  and  had  ahiiost  persuaded  them  to  disperse,  when 
stones  thrown  from  a  neighbouring  house  injured  some  who 
were  with  him  and  provoked  retahations,  which  caused  the 
angry  fires  to  blaze  more  fiercely  than  before.  The  result  of 
this  riot  belongs  to  general  history.  More's  name  only  occurs 
in  it  as  a  peacemaker.* 

There  is,  however,  a  very  interesting  allusion  to  this  riot  in 
one  of  his  latest  works.  He  is  showing  how  much  mischief 
might  arise  from  spreading  about  the  rumour  that  heretics  were 
very  numerous  in  the  country :  "  I  remember  that  here  in 
London,  after  the  great  business  that  was  there  on  a  May-day 
in  the  morning,  by  a  rising  made  against  strangers,  for  which 
divers  of  the  'prentices  and  journeymen  suffered  execution  of 
treason,  by  an  old  statute  made  long  before,  against  all  such 
as  would  violate  the  king's  safe-conduct.  I  was  appointed, 
among  others,  to  inquire  by  diligent  examination,  in  what  wise, 
and  by  what  persons,  that  fiery  conspiracy  began.  And  in 
good  faith,  after  much  diligence  used  therein,  we  perfectly 
tried  out  at  last,  that  all  that  business  began  only  by  the  con- 
spiracy of  two  young  lads  that  were  'prentices  in  Cheap. 
Which,  after  the  thing  devised  first  between  them  twain, 
perused  prior  by  the  journeymen  first,  and  after  the  'prentices 
of  many  of  the  mean  crafts  in  the  city,  bearing  the  first  that 
they  spake  with  in  hand,  that  they  had  secretly  spoken  with 
many  other  occupations  already,  and  that  they  were  all  agreed 
thereunto  :  and  that,  besides  them,  there  were  two  or  three 
hundred  of  serving  men  of  divers  lords'  houses,  and  some  of 
the  king's  too,  which  would  not  be  named  or  known,  that 
would  yet  in  the  night  be  at  hand,  and  when  they  were  once 
up,  would  not  fail  to  fall  in  with  them  and  take  their  part. 
And  with   this   ungracious   invention  of  those  two  lewd  lads, 

*  See  Hall  and  Stow ;  also  Brewer's  Introduction  to  Letters  and 
Papers,  ii.   214. 

74  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

which  yet  in  the  business  fled  away  themselves,"  the  riot  and 
disaster  had  their  origin.*  Sir  Thomas  goes  on  to  show  that 
he  did  not  forget  this  his  first  lesson  as  to  the  m.ischief  of 
secret  societies. 

The  summer  of  15 17  brought  a  greater  calamity  to  London 
than  a  riot.  A  deadly  disease  called  "the  Sweating  Sickness" 
spread  its  ravages  far  and  wide.  As  we  shall  meet  this  several 
times  in  the  life  of  More,  it  may  be  well  to  form  some  general 
notion  of  what  it  was.  Dr.  Caius,  a  contemporary  physician, 
gives  the  following  account  of  the  origin  and  nature  of  this 
dreadful  sickness  :  "  In  the  year  of  our  Lord  God  1485, 
shortly  after  the  7th  day  of  August,  at  which  time  King  Henry 
VIL  arrived  at  Milford  in  Wales  out  of  France,  and  in  the 
first  year  of  his  reign,  there  chanced  a  disease  among  the 
people,  lasting  the  rest  of  that  month  and  all  September,  which 
for  the  sudden  sharpness  and  unwont  cruellness  passed  the 
pestilence.  For  this  [the  pestilence]  commonly  giveth  in  four, 
often  seven,  sometime  nine,  sometime  eleven,  and  sometime 
fourteen  days'  respite  to  whom  it  vexeth.  But  that  [the 
Sweating  Sickness]  immediately  killed  some  in  opening  their 
windows,  some  in  playing  with  children  in  their  street  doors, 
some  in  one  hour,  many  in  two,  it  destroyed  ;  and  at  the 
longest  to  them  who  merrily  dined  it  gave  a  sorrowful  supper. 
As  it  found  them,  so  it  took  them  :  some  in  sleep,  some  in 
wake,  some  in  mirth,  some  in  care,  some  busy,  and  some  idle  ; 
and  in  one  house  sometime  three,  sometime  five,  sometime 
more,  sometime  all ;  of  the  which,  if  the  half  in  every  town 
escaped,  it  was  thought  great  favour.  This  disease,  because  it 
most  did  stand  in  sweating  from  the  beginning  until  the  ending, 
was  called  here  '  the  Sweating  Sickness ' ;  and  because  it  first 
began  in  England,  it  was  named  in  other  countries  '  the 
English  Sweat '."  t 

*  Apology,  ch.  xlvii.     English  Works,  p.  920. 

t  Quoted  by  Mr.  Brewer.     Introduction  to  Letters  and  Papers,  ii.  207. 


More  thus  writes  to  Erasmus  in  August,  1517  :  "We  are  in 
the  greatest  sorrow  and  danger.  Multitudes  are  dying  all  round 
us  :  almost  everyone  in  Oxford,  Cambridge  and  London  has 
been  ill  lately,  and  we  have  lost  many  of  our  best  and  most 
honoured  friends  ;  among  them — I  grieve  at  the  grief  I  shall 
cause  you  in  relating  it — our  dear  Andrew  Ammonio,  in  whose 
death  both  letters  and  all  good  men  suffer  a  great  loss.  He 
thought  himself  well  fortified  against  the  contagion  by  his 
moderation  in  diet.  He  attributed  it  to  this,  that,  whereas 
he  met  hardly  anyone  whose  whole  family  had  not  been  at- 
tacked, the  evil  had  touched  none  of  his  household.  He  was 
boasting  of  this  to  me  and  many  others  not  many  hours  before 
his  death,  for  in  this  '  Sweating  Sickness '  no  one  dies  except  on 
the  first  day  of  attack.  I  myself  and  my  wife  and  children  are 
as  yet  untouched,  and  the  rest  of  my  household  have  recovered. 
I  assure  you  there  is  less  danger  on  the  battlefield  than  in  the 
city.  Now,  as  I  hear,  the  plague  has  begun  to  rage  in  Calais, 
just  when  we  are  being  forced  to  land  there  on  our  embassy,  as 
if  it  was  not  enough  to  have  lived  in  the  midst  of  the  contagion, 
but  we  must  follow  it  also.  But  what  would  you  have  !  We 
must  bear  our  lot.  I  have  prepared  myself  for  any  event. 
Farewell,  in  haste.     London,   19th  August."* 

In  this  letter  More  refers  to  an  embassy  to  Calais.  During 
the  wars  with  France,  wrongs  had  been  perpetrated  on  both 
sides,  and  it  was  resolved  to  settle  the  disputes  in  conference. 
The  commissioners  were  to  meet  at  Calais,  then  English  terri- 
tory. After  long  delays,  a  commission  was  issued  to  Sir  Richard 
Wingfield,  the  deputy  of  Calais,  to  Dr.  Knight  and  Thomas 
More,  on  26th  August. t  The  negotiations  were  still  further 
delayed  because  it  wns  found  that  the  French  commissioners' 

*  Inter  Epist.  Erasm.  522.  The  Leyden  editor  has  dated  this  1520. 
As  Ammonio  died  in  the  summer  of  15 17,  it  must  have  been  written 
that  year, 

t  Ltttivs  and  Papers,  ii.  3624 

-^vX*^  OF  PS/^^ 
^  MAR  92  1934 

76  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

faculties  were  not  sufficiently  extended.  Thus  the  negotiations 
dragged  on  into  November.*  On  the  15th  of  that  month 
Erasmus  wrote  to  Peter  Giles  from  Louvain  :  "  More  is  still  at 
Calais,  utterly  wearied  and  at  great  expense,  and  engaged  in 
hateful  negotiations.  Thus  it  is  that  kings  beatify  their  friends. 
This  it  is  to  be  beloved  of  cardinals."  t  This  was  an  echo  of 
Flore's  letter  of  25th  October  to  Erasmus  :  "I  quite  approve  of 
your  resolution  not  to  meddle  with  the  laborious  triflings  of 
princes ;  and  you  show  your  love  for  me  in  wishing  that  I  may 
extricate  myself  from  them.  You  can  scarcely  believe  how 
unwillingly  I  am  engaged  in  them.  Nothing  can  be  more 
odious  than  this  legation.  I  am  relegated  to  this  little  mari- 
time town,  J  of  which  both  .the  surroundings  and  the  climate 
are  unpleasant ;  and  if  litigation  even  at  home,  where  it  brings 
gain,  is  so  abhorrent  to  my  nature,  how  tedious  must  it  be  here, 
where  it  only  brings  loss  !"  §  The  allowance  or  diets  made  to 
ambassadors  in  those  days  were  scanty  enough,  and  it  must 
have  been  indeed  a  serious  loss  to  More  to  forego  his  profes- 
sional income.  A  successful  embassy  was,  however,  generally 
rewarded  by  some  ecclesiastical  promotion  to  a  clergyman,  or 
by  an  annuity  to  a  layman.  1|  Thus,  among  the  fees  and  gratui- 
ties paid  by  the  king  in  15 16  is  mentioned,  "Thomas  More, 
councillor,  for  life  ^100".^  On  21st  June,  1518,  when  this 
payment  recurs,  it  is  recorded  as  paid  out  of  the  little  customs 
of  London.  ** 

Roper  relates  an  event  which  caused  the  king  to  draw  More 

-"  lb.,  3750,  3766,  3772. 

t  Epist.  344.     Wrongly  dated  by  the  editor  1518. 

:J:  His  only  relaxation  seems  to  have  been  a  two  days'  visit  to  the  Abbot 
of  St.  Bertin's,  an  old  friend  of  Erasmus.  Letter  of  7th  October  (Inter 
Ep.  Erasm.  192,  in  App. ). 

§  Misdated  by  editor  1520. 

II  In  the  king's  book  of  payments  is  an  entry  of  £2^  13s.  4d.  each  to 
Knight  and  More  for  this  embassy. 

■I  Letters  and  Papers,  ii.  part  i.  2736,  or  p.  875. 

**  76.,  part  ii.  4247. 


entirely  from  his  profession  and  place  him  at  court.  A  great 
ship  belonging  to  the  Pope  had  been  obliged  to  put  in  at 
Southampton,  and  was  claimed  by  the  king  as  a  forfeiture. 
The  papal  nuncio  asked  that  the  matter  should  be  publicly 
discussed  before  the  king  or  his  commissioners.  More  not 
only  acted  as  interpreter,  explaining  to  the  ambassador,  in 
Latin,  the  arguments  made  use  of  on  either  side,  but  argued 
so  learnedly  himself  on  the  Pope's  side  that  the  matter  was 
decided  in  his  favour.  The  king,  hearing  how  greatly  he  had 
distinguished  himself,  called  him  to  his  service.  But,  before 
we  follow  his  career  at  court,  we  must  go  back  to  consider  him 
in  his  literary  and  in  his  domestic  life. 



I.  Life  of  John  Picus. 

IN  1510,  ^lore  published  his  "Life  of  John  Picus,  Earl  of 
Mirandula,  a  great  Lord  of  Italy,  an  excellent  cunning 
man  in  all  sciences,  and  virtuous  of  living,  with  divers 
Epistles  and  other  works  of  the  said  John  Picus  ".  He  had 
probably  made  this  translation  some  years  before,  during  the 
time  of  his  retirement  from  the  displeasure  of  Henry  VIL 

Giovanni  Pico  della  Mirandola,  Count  of  Concordia,  had  died 
in  1494,  at  the  age  of  thirty- two,  leaving  a  name  famous  for  his 
threat  talents  and  erudition,  his  first  vainglorious  appearance 
before  the  world  and  then  his  thorough  conversion  to  God.* 
His  complete  works  had  been  printed  in  Bologna  in  1496,  and 
again  in  Venice  in  1498.  The  latter  edition,  which  is  much 
superior  to  the  former,  was  the  one  used  by  More.  Out  of  it 
he  selected  the  life  prefixed  by  Pico's  nephew,  four  letters,  and 
a  commentary  on  the  sixteenth  psalm. 

Pico  had  appended  to  one  of  his  letters  twelve  rules  of 
spiritual  warfare,  twelve  weapons,  and  twelve  properties  or 
conditions   of  a   lover.     Taking   these   for  liis    theme.    More 

*  His  epitaph  is  felicitous  : — 

"  Joannes  jacet  hie  Mirandula  ;  castera  norunt 
Et  Tagus  et  Ganges,  forsan  et  Antipodes  ". 
This  was  written  before  Vasco  de  Gama  had  rounded  the  Cape  of  Good 



developed  them  in  his  favourite  seven-line  stanzas.  The 
poetry  is  entirely  his  own,  there  are  no  corresponding  Latin 
verses  in  the  works  of  Pico.  But  Pico  wrote  a  beautiful  prayer 
in  Latin  elegiac  verse,  of  which  More  has  given  a  translation  or 
rather  paraphrase  in  the  same  stanzas  as  the  rest.  More's 
verses  cannot  be  called  poetical.  They  served,  however,  to  put 
spiritual  maxims  in  a  form  that  would  arrest  the  attention  and 
cling  to  the  memory.     A  specimen  was  given  in  Chapter  V. 

The  translation  of  Pico's  Life  and  Letters  was  dedicated  by 
More  to  ''  his  right  entirely  beloved  sister  in  Christ,  Joyeuse 
Leigh,"  as  a  new  year's  present.  This  lady  seems  to  have  been 
a  nun.* 

In  the  year  15 13,  while  More  was  under-sheriff,  he  managed 
to  find  time  to  compose  his  History  of  Richard  III.^  both  in 
English  and  Latin.  It  was,  however,  never  completed,  nor 
was  it  published  during  More's  life.  It  appeared,  "  corrupted  " 
by  omissions  and  additions,  in  Harding's  and  Hall's  Chronicles  ; 
but  was  reprinted  correctly  by  Rastell  from  a  copy  in  More's 
handwriting.  Some  have  doubted  whether  this  work  is  by 
More  or  merely  translated  by  him.  The  intrinsic  evidence  is 
in  favour  of  its  being  his  composition.  The  English  is 
beautiful,  and  More  paid  no  less  attention  to  his  English  prose 
than  to  his  Latin  style.  The  book  is  full  of  pithy  sayings.  The 
speeches  introduced  (though  not  to  be  taken  as  really  spoken) 
are  the  work  of  an  orator  like  More,  who  had  carefully  trained 
himself  on  ancient  models.  A  most  competent  critic  has  said  : 
'•  As  if  it  had  been  the  lot  of  More  to  open  all  the  paths 
through  the  wilds  of  our  old  English  speech,  he  is  to  be  con- 
sidered as  our  earliest  prose  writer,  and  as  the  first  Englishman 
who  wrote  the  history  of  his  country  in  its  present  language. 
.  .  .  The  composition  has  an  ease  and  rotundity  which  gratify 

*  Since  the  above  was  written  More's  translation  has  been  republished 
with  notes  and  a  very  interesting  Introduction  on  the  writings  of  Pico, 
by  J.  M.  Rigg,  Esq.  (Nutt,  1890). 

8o  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

the  ear  without  awakening  the  suspicion  of  art,  of  which  there 
was  no  model  in  any  preceding  writer  of  EngUsh  prose."  * 

II.  Translation  of  Lucian. 

We  have  seen  the  friendship  that  sprang  up  between  More 
and  Erasmus  during  the  visit  made  by  the  latter  to  England  in 
1498  and  1499.  Erasmus  did  not  return  to  England  until  the 
end  of  1505,  when  More  was  married  and  had  taken  up  in 
earnest  his  profession  of  the  law.  He  found  the  young 
barrister  surrounded  by  literary  friends ;  Colet,  vicar  of 
Stepney,  and  then  or  soon  after  dean  of  St.  Paul's ;  Grocyn, 
formerly  professor  of  Greek  at  Oxford,  and  then  rector  of  St. 
Lawrence,  in  the  Jewry ;  Linacre,  a  most  learned  priest,  and 
physician  to  Henry  VII.  (as  he  was  afterwards  to  Henry  VIII.) ; 
Lilly,  a  younger  man  than  the  others,  yet  not  less  cultivated. 
In  fact,  from  a  still  earlier  date  and  to  the  end  of  his  life, 
More's  company  was  eagerly  sought  by  every  man  of  the  new 
culture,  whether  English  or  foreign,  who  came  to  London. 

Erasmus  was  invited  to  stay  with  More,  and  the  two  scholars 
found  a  most  congenial  occupation  in  the  translation  from 
Greek  into  Latin  of  several  of  Lucian's  dialogues.  More 
selected  three  of  these  for  his  own  share  —  the  Cynicus, 
Menippus  or  Necromantia,  and  Philopseudes,  as  the  most 
witty.  In  his  dedication  of  these  to  Thomas  Ruthal,  secretary 
to  Henry  VIII.,  and  afterwards  Bishop  of  Durham,  More 
extols  the  truth  and  wisdom,  as  well  as  the  wit,  of  these 
dialogues.  That  Lucian  was  incredulous  even  of  man's  im- 
mortality does  not  much  trouble  him.  ''What  do  I  care  for 
the  opinions  of  a  heathen  on   such  matters?"     Lucian    may 

*  Sir  James  Mackintosh  {Life  of  Sir  T.  More  (1844),  p.  41).  The 
objection  made  by  Sir  H.  Ellis  that  the  writer  remembered  something 
said  to  his  father  at  the  death  of  Edward  IV.  in  1483,  and  that  More  was 
then  only  three  years  old,  is  of  no  force,  since  he  was  really  five  ;  and  it 
is  not  unusual  to  remember  isolated  facts  which  made  an  impression  at 
the  age  of  four  or  five. 


help  us  to  laugh  at  superstition  without  touching  our  religious 
faith,  which  has  no  foundation  in  human  dreams  and  fictions, 
but  rests  on  solid  historical  proofs,  which  are  only  contaminated 
and  weakened  when  mixed  up  with  fables.* 

In  addition  to  these  translations  More  composed  a  Declama- 
tion in  imitation  of  Lucian.  Mr.  Seebohm  says  :  "At  More's 
suggestion  both  (he  and  Erasmus)  wTOte  a  full  answer  to 
Lucian's  arguments  in  favour  of  tyrannicide  ".t  This  account 
might  lead  those  unacquainted  with  More's  writings  to  think 
that,  while  Lucian  defended  the  slaying  of  tyrants,  More 
rejected  and  reprobated  it.  What  may  have  been  More's 
serious  judgment  on  such  a  subject  we  can  only  gather  in- 
directly, from  his  submission  to  the  Church's  teaching  both  in 
faith  and  morals.  In  his  Life  of  Pico  he  had  said  that  Pico 
"  committed  (like  a  good  Christian  man)  both  his  defence  and 
all  other  things  that  he  should  write  to  the  most  holy  judgment 
of  our  mother  Holy  Church  ".J  But  on  the  subject  of  tyranni- 
cide in  general  More  has  written  nothing.  Like  Lucian,  he 
presupposes  the  lawfulness  and  excellent  merit  of  slaying  a 
tyrant ;  yet  if  he  does  this,  it  is  merely  in  a  literary  exercise. 
Lucian  had  supposed  a  Greek  city,  of  a  republican  constitution, 
of  which  one  of  the  chief  magistrates  had  made  himself  the 
oppressor  and  tyrant.  There  was  a  constitutional  law  in  the 
republic  authorising  any  citizen  to  take  the  life  of  such  a  usurper, 
and  entitling  him  to  a  great  reward  in  case  of  success.  A  man, 
intent  on  freeing  his  city  from  the  tyrant,  manages  to  get 
secretly  into  his  citadel,  in  order  to  assassinate  him.  He  does 
not  find  the  tyrant,  but  kills  his  son  and  leaves  his  sword  in  the 

*  After  the  above  he  continues :  Quas  scriptura  nobis  historias 
divinitus  inspirita  commendat,  eis  indubitata  fides  habenda  est.  Caeteras 
vero  ad  Christi  doctrinam,  tanquam  ad  Critolai  regulam,  applicantes 
caute  et  cum  judicio,  aut  recipiamus  aut  respuamus  si  carere  volumus  et 
inani  fiducia  et  superstitiosa  formidine  {Epist.  Dcdic). 

t  Oxford  Reformers^  p.  182. 

X  English  Works,  p.  4. 


82  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

body.  The  tyrant,  finding  his  son  slain,  kills  himself  with  the 
sword.  The  assassin  then  claims  the  reward  of  tyrannicide 
from  his  fellow-citizens.  The  supposed  pleading  of  this  man  is 
Lucian's  Declamation,  and  the  Declamation  of  More  is  an 
answer  to  the  assassin's  pleadings.  He  supposes  himself  to  be 
a  citizen  in  this  Greek  republic,  and  he  proves  that,  though 
accidentally  the  city  has  been  freed,  the  assassin  can  claim  no 
merit  or  reward,  but  rather  deserves  punishment,  since  his  ill- 
planned  attempt  and  the  murder  of  the  son  were  more  likely 
to  have  enraged  the  tyrant,  and  to  have  confirmed  his  tyranny, 
than  to  have  overthrown  it.  More's  imaginary  speech  is  well 
worthy  to  be  both  read  and  studied.  It  is  a  masterpiece  of 
oratory,  and  gives  us  a  specimen  of  that  skill  in  arranging  argu- 
ment, and  expressing  it  in  powerful  and  dignified  language, 
which  placed  More  the  first  (in  order  of  time)  on  the  list  of 
great  English  orators. 

Erasmus  also  published  his  Declamation  on  the  same  sub- 
ject. In  the  dedication  to  Richard  Wliitford,  chaplain  to  the 
Bishop  of  Winchester,*  he  says  that  he  has  written  this  essay  in 
oratory  at  the  instigation  of  More,  whose  eloquence  is  so  great ' 
that  he  could  obtain  anything  even  from  an  enemy,  and  whom 
Erasmus  loves  so  dearly  that  if  he  asked  him  to  dance  on  the 
tight-rope  he  would  obey  without  a  murmur.  "  Unless  my  ardent 
love  blinds  me,  nature  never  made  any  one  so  ready  of  wit,  so 
keen  sighted,  so  shrewd.  His  intellect  is  equalled  by  his 
power  of  speech ;  and  his  suavity  is  so  great,  his  humour  so 
keen  yet  so  innocuous,  that  he  has  every  quality  of  a  perfect 
advocate."  f 

Elsewhere  he  says  :  "  The  style  of  his  oratory  approaches 
more  the  structure  and  dialectic  subtlety  of  Isocrates  than  the 
limpid  stream  of  Cicero,  although  in  urbanity  he  is  in  no  way 
inferior  to  Tully.     He  paid  so  much  attention  in  his  youth  to 

*  The  same  Whitford,  afterwards  named  The  Wretch  of  Sion,  and  the 
author  of  the  well-known  Psalter  of  jfcsus. 
t  Eras.  Opera,  t.  i.  266. 


writing  poetry,  that  you  may  now  discern  the  poet  in  his  prose 

III.  The  Moria  of  Erasmus. 
In  1508  Erasmus  was  again  in  England,  and  again  the  guest 
of  More.  In  his  house,  and  with  his  encouragement,  he  com- 
posed his  famous  Praise  of  Folly,  Encoinium  Morice,  so  called 
with  a  little  intentional  joke  on  the  name  More.  It  does  not 
belong  to  my  subject  to  notice  in  any  detail  the  writings  of 
Erasmus,  but  ]More  is  so  closely  connected  with  this  work  that 
I  must  enter  into  some  explanations.  We  have,  then,  two  facts 
to  consider — that  More  is  honoured  by  the  Church,  and  that 
this  book,  written  under  his  roof  and  with  his  applause,  was 
placed  on  the  index  of  prohibited  books.  To  say  that  More  is 
honoured  merely  as  a  martyr,  i.e.,  for  his  heroic  death,  and  that 
this  implies  no  approval  of  the  details  of  his  previous  life,  may 
be  a  sufficient  vindication  of  the  consistency  of  the  Holy 
Church,  but  it  does  not  clear  the  character  of  More.  To  ad- 
mire and  extol  that  character  it  is  not  indeed  necessary  to  clear 
it  from  every  stain.  No  one  insisted  on  this  more  frequently 
than  More  himself,  when  speaking  of  our  veneration  for  the 
fathers  and  saints  of  the  Church.  Shall  it  then  be  said,  in  all 
candour,  that  as  Erasmus  was  led  astray  by  his  satirical  spirit 
in  this  work,  so  More  too  was  somewhat  blinded  by  his  par- 
tiality for  Erasmus  and  his  own  love  of  fun  ?  Some  may  be 
inclined  to  take  this  view.  Stapleton  says  that  the  friendship 
which  existed  between  these  two  eminent  men  was  honourable 
to  Erasmus  rather  than  useful  to  More  ;  that  in  later  life  More 
exhorted  Erasmus  to  imitate  St.  Augustine  in  publishing  a  book 
of  Retractations,  but  that  Erasmus  was  so  far  from  this  humility 
that  in  his  collection  of  letters  he  even  suppressed  this  request 
of  More's.*     Candour,  however,  compels  me  to  take  a  different 

*  Vita,  cap.  4.  Is  not  Stapleton  mistaken  ?  In  a  letter  to  Edward  Lee 
in  1519  More  writes  :  Neque  enim  unquam  me  pro  tanto  viro  gessi  a  quo 
vel  in  aliquo  literarum  genere,  vel  in  rerum  perpensione  communium 
Erasmus  admonendus  esse  videretur  (Apud  Jortin,  ii.  652). 

84  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

view,  for  I  do  not  find  that  More  ever  repented  his  share  in  the 
Praise  of  Folly.  This  book  is  satirical  on  all  classes,  from 
popes  and  kings  to  pilgrims  and  beggars ;  yet  its  satire  is 
moderate  compared  with  that  of  many  previous  writers  whose 
faith  and  loyalty  to  the  Church  have  never  been  called  in  ques- 
tion. Satire  on  ecclesiastical  persons — whatever  opinion  we 
may  form  of  it — must  not  be  confounded  with  the  ridicule  cast 
by  heretics  on  Divine  dogmas,  or  institutions,  or  practices  ap- 
proved by  the  Church.  There  was  never  one  day  in  his  life 
when  More  would  have  applauded  or  tolerated  an  attack  or  a 
sneer  at  anything  which  he  knew  the  Church  to  have  coun- 
tenanced. A  work,  however,  like  that  of  Erasmus,  written  in 
Latin,  and  intended  merely  for  the  learned,  might  easily  seem  to 
him  quite  inoffensive.*  Some  years  earlier  a  German  named 
Sebastian  Brant  had  written  in  German  verse  a  book  called  the 
Ship  of  Fools.  There  had  been  no  outcry  against  it.  It  had 
been  at  once  translated  into  Latin,  Dutch,  French,  and  Eng- 
lish. A  recent  Scotch  editor  of  this  book,  Mr.  Jamieson, 
writes  :  "  Brant  can  scarcely  be  classed  in  the  great  army  of 
Protestant  reformers.  He  was  a  reformer  from  within,  a 
biting  and  unsparing  exposer  of  every  priestly  abuse,  but  a 
loyal  son  of  the  Church."  Of  the  English  translator,  or  rather 
adapter,  of  this  book,  Alexander  Barclay,  a  priest,  Mr.  Jamieson 
also  says  :  "  Barclay  applies  the  cudgel  as  vigorously  to  the 
priest's  pate  as  to  the  Lollard's  back.  But  he  disliked  modern 
innovation  as  much  as  ancient  abuses,  in  this  also  faithfully  re- 
flecting the  mind  of  the  people. "f  This  seems  to  me  a  perfectly 
just  estimate,  and  explains  why  More  saw  no  harm  or  danger  in 

*  Erasmus  in  his  letter  to  Bozthem  says  that  the  book  was  received 
with  great  applause — praesertim  apud  magnates — those  who  were  most 
caustically  attacked.  It  began  to  give  offence  especially  when  Lystrius 
(while  defending  it)  added  commentaries  to  explain  its  allusions.  It  was 
thus  brought  to  the  level  of  men  for  whom  it  had  not  been  intended. 

fShip  of  Fools,  translated  in  verse  by  Alex.  Barclay.  Ed.  by  F.  H. 
Jamieson  (Edinburgh  :  Paterson,  1874,  2  vols.). 


the  somewhat  similar  book  of  Erasmus  when  it  first  appeared. 
The  Ship  of  Fools  had  been  received  with  applause  throughout 
Europe.  It  had  even  been  taken  as  a  text-book  for  sermons  in 
Germany.*  In  England  it  was  translated  into  both  prose  and 
verse,  without  reclamation  or  protest. t  Why  should  a  deeper 
book,  written  in  Latin  for  more  learned  men,  be  pernicious  or 
perilous  ?  That  it  was  judged  and  declared  to  be  so  by  the 
Church  more  than  fifty  years  later,  proves  what  it  had  become, 
not  what  it  was  at  its  first  appearance.  Circumstances  had 
totally  changed,  and  it  is  often  the  circumstances  in  which  a 
book  is  read  that  determine  its  weight.  There  was  a  time 
when  the  Pagan  classics  were  dangerous  reading,  not  only  from 
a  moral,  but  a  dogmatic  point  of  view\  That  time  is  long  since 
past  for  those  who  are  brought  up  Christians.  There  was  a 
time  when  the  speculations  of  the  Manichees  could  entangle  a 
clever  rationalising  youth  like  Augustine.  At  the  present  day, 
not  only  could  a  clever  youth  read  them  without  danger,  but 
he  would  read  them  with  wonder  that  they  could  ever  have  had 
attractions  for  a  reasonable  man.  And  as  a  book  may  cease  to 
be  dangerous,  so  also  it  may  become  dangerous  l)y  change  of 

When  Erasmus  wrote  his  Praise  of  Foll}\  the  whole  of  Europe 
was  Catholic  ;  Luther's  name  was  yet  unknown  except  in  Wit- 
tenburg,  where  he  bore  the  character  of  a  good  Catholic.  There 
was  no  prospect  of  heresy  on  any  large  scale,  but  among  all 
good  men  there  were  hopes  of  Catholic  Reformation.  Whether 
the  satire  of  Erasmus  was  likely  to  hasten  it  might  well  be 
doubted.  ]More  thought  it  would,  and  welcomed  the  book. 
In  later  years,  long  before  it  was  officially  condemned,  he 
regretted  its  appearance,  not  because  he  had  changed  his 
opinion  of  the  book  itself,  but  because  he  saw  that  it  had 
been  inopportune,  and  was  abused  l)y  heretics  and  injurious  to 

*  Navicnlci    sivc   spcculutn  fatuonini   of  Dr.   John   Geiler,   printed   in 
1510.     Each  sermon  has  for  text :   "  The  number  of  fools  is  infinite  '". 
t  By  Henry  Watson,  in  1509.     It  was  printed  by  Wynkyn  de  W'orde. 

86  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

feeble-minded  Catholics.  It  will  be  better,  however,  to  hear 
his  own  words  on  the  subject. 

In  1532,  he  wrote  thus  to  Erasmus:  "Your  adversaries 
cannot  be  ignorant  how  candidly  you  confess  that,  before 
these  pestilent  heresies  arose,  which  have  since  spread  every- 
where and  upset  everything,  you  treated  certain  matters  in  a 
way  you  would  not  have  treated  them  had  you  been  able  to 
guess  that  such  enemies  of  religion  and  such  traitors  would 
ever  arise.  You  would  then  have  put  what  you  had  to  say 
more  mildly  and  with  more  limitations.*  You  wrote  strongly 
then  because  you  were  indignant  at  seeing  how  some  cherished 
their  vices  as  if  they  were  virtues. "t 

Again,  writing  against  Tindale  in  1532,  More  says  that 
Erasmus  in  his  Mo?'ia  had  in  a  dramatic  spirit  put  the 
objections  against  certain  matters  in  a  caustic  and  whimsical 
way,  just  as  he  had  himself  done  in  his  Dialogue,  "  Quoth  he 
and  Quoth  I,"  where  he  makes  the  "messenger"  speak  strongly 
and  sarcastically  against  many  things,  which  More  then,  in  his 
own  person,  either  allows  to  be  abuses,  or  defends  with  a 
distinction,  or  explains  and  altogether  approves.  "  But,"  con- 
tinues More,   "  in  these  days  in  which  Tindale  hath  with  the 

*  Mitius  ac  dilutius. 

t  Inter  Epist.  Erasm.  1123.  Among  the  words  of  Erasmus  referred 
to  by  More  I  may  mention  these  :  Moriam  scrips!  tranquillis  rebus, 
quum  mundus  altum  indormiret  ca^remoniis  ac  priescriptis  hominum, 
haudquaquam  scripturus,  si  horum  tempestatem  exorituram  prajscissem 
{ad  Botzhcni).  "  Si  pr^escissem  hujusmodi  sa^culum  exoriturum,  aut  non 
scripsissem  quaedam,  qua;  scripsi,  aut  ahter  scripsissem  "  {Ep.  572  anno 
1521).  In  another  letter  of  1524  he  says  in  general  that  what  he  was 
accused  of  having  written  about  the  origin  of  the  Pope's  supremacy, 
about  confession,  marriage,  etc.,  he  wrote  when  there  was  no  thought  as 
yet  of  Luther's  errors  ;  that  he  merely  wrote  doubting,  not  asserting  ; 
and  that  he  was  always  ready  to  submit  to  the  Church  ;  lastly,  that  he 
had  modified  what  might  give  offence  or  handle  to  the  new  errors 
{Ep.  667).  This  is  but  a  poor  apology  for  sowing  doubts  in  matters  of 
faith  ;  but  as  regards  the  form  of  his  satire  in  things  not  of  faith  (and  in 
such  only  is  the  character  of  More  concerned),  the  excuse  is  a  valid  one. 


infection  of  his  contagious  heresies  so  sore  poisoned  mahcious 
and  new-fangled  folk  ...  in  these  days  in  which  men,  by  their 
own  default,  misconstrue  and  take  harm  out  of  the  very  Scrip- 
ture of  God,  until  men  better  amend,  if  any  man  would  now 
translate  Moria  into  English,  or  some  works  either  that  I  have 
myself  written  ere  this,  albeit  there  be  none  harm  therein,  folk 
yet  being  given  to  take  harm  of  that  which  is  good,  I  would  not 
only  'my  darling's'  \i.e.,  Erasmus's*]  books,  but  mine  own  also, 
help  to  burn  them  both  with  mine  own  hands,  rather  than  folk 
should  (though  through  their  own  fault)  take  any  harm  of  them, 
seeing  that  I  see  them  likely  in  these  days  so  to  do."  t 

IV.  Private  Letters. 

More  speaks  here  of  works  of  his  own,  in  which  there  was  no 
hartn,  yet  which  might  be  made  hurtful.  In  spite  of  a  recent 
attempt  by  Mr.  Seebohm  to  draw  from  the  writings  of  Blessed 
Thomas  More,  and  from  those  of  his  friends,  Colet  and 
Erasmus,  those  very  conclusions  which  More  protests  should 
7wt  be  drawn  from  them,  I  do  not  think  there  is  much  danger 
at  the  present  day  that  the  fun,  or  the  satire,  or  the  serious 
reproofs  of  any  of  these  writers  can  do  any  injury  to  any 
Catholic  doctrine,  practice,  or  sentiment.  I  speak,  indeed, 
with  great  reserve  of  the  works  of  Erasmus,  which  require  a 
prudent  reader.  But  I  have  been  unable  to  find  in  the  writings 
of  More  any  pages  that  I  could  wish  unwritten  or  burnt  for  fear  of 
scandal  to  the  weak  or  simple  ;  nor  do  I  fear  his  blame  if  I 
now  print  in  English  what  he  would  certainly  not  tlicn  have 
written  in  English,  or  what  he  never  intended  for  publication 
in  any  way,  but  wrote  for  the  eye  of  Erasmus  only. 

In  15 16,  Erasmus  had  published  his  translation  and  notes  on 
the  New  Testament,  which,  though  dedicated  to  the  Pope,  and 
honoured  with  a  letter  from  him,  and  cordially  approved  by  men 
like  Warham   and  Fisher,   had   caused   a   commotion   among 

*  Tindale  had  thus  named  him.  t  EfiglisJi  ]Vorks,  p.  422. 

88  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

certain  theologians  and  in  certain  religious  orders.  On  31st 
October,  15 16,  More  writes  to  Erasmus  that  there  is  a  great 
conspiracy  brewing  against  him.  "Who  are  the  conspirators ? 
I  fear  to  tell  you  lest  you  should  quail  before  such  terrible  and 
powerful  enemies.  Well,  if  I  must  say  it,  one  is  that  renowned 
Franciscan  theologian  whom  you  know,  and  of  whom  you  make 
honourable  mention  in  your  edition  of  S^.  Jerome.  He  has 
entered  into  a  plot  with  other  chosen  men  of  the  same  order 
and  the  same  kidney,  to  write  against  your  errors.  To  do  this 
more  easily  and  efficaciously,  they  have  conspired  to  divide 
your  works  among  them,  to  scrutinise  everything  and  understand 
nothing.  Do  you  see  the  danger  impending  over  you  ?  The 
resolution  was  made  in  a  nocturnal  assembly,  when  they  were 
well  soaked.  Next  day,  as  I  hear,  when  they  had  slept  off  the 
dregs,  having  forgotten  their  resolution  and  cancelled  their 
decree,  since  it  had  been  written  in  wine,  they  relinquished  the 
undertaking,  and  from  reading  betook  themselves  again  to 
begging,  which  long  experience  had  taught  them  to  be  more 
useful.  * 

"It  is  worth  while  to  see  how  the  Epistolce  Obscurorum 
Virorum  pleases  all,  the  learned  as  a  joke,  the  unlearned 
seriously.!  When  we  laugh,  these  latter  think  we  are  only 
amused  by  the  style,  which  they  don't  defend ;  but  they  say  it 
is  compensated  by  the  gravity  of  the  matter,  and  that  a  most 
beautiful  sword  is  hidden  in  a  rude  scabbard.  W^hat  a  pity  a 
better  title  was  not  found  !  But  for  that  in  a  hundred  years 
they  would  never  have  discovered  that  the  author  was  making  a 
nose  at  them  longer  than  the  horn  of  a  rhinoceros. "J 

It  is  clear  that,  when  More  wrote  this,  he  was  a  little  infected 
with  the  spirit  of  the  book  he  had  been  just  reading,  which  is 

*  Notwithstanding  this  passage,  More  writes:  Ordo  Minoritarum,  quo, 
nisi  me  falHt  opinio,  nullus  est  ordo  sanctior  (Letter  to  a  monk,  in  Jortin 
ii.  695). 

t  The  first  volume  of  this  satirical  book  had  just  appeared.  . 

X  Inter  Epist.  Erasm.  87. 


a  merciless  parody  on  the  writings  and  ways  of  the  monks  and 
friars.  Let  it  however  be  remembered  that  he  did  not  write 
this  letter  for  publication,  and  that  it  was  first  published  without 
his  leave.  Of  such  letters,  Erasmus  himself  says  :  "  I  was  try- 
ing my  hand,  killing  time,  amusing  myself  with  intimate  friends, 
getting  rid  of  my  bile,  jesting  at  most,  and  expecting  nothing 
less  than  that  my  friends  would  copy  out  and  preserve  such 
absurdities  ".* 

At  first  MS.  collections  of  such  private  letters  were  made 
and  sold  by  booksellers,  then  unauthorised  editions  published, 
until  the  author  was  obliged  in  self-defence  to  print  an  accurate 
edition.  Erasmus  complains  that  in  this  way  everything  was 
perverted  and  misunderstood,  "  no  attention  being  paid  to  the 
time  in  which  a  man  wrote,  but  what  was  written  at  first  most 
appropriately  is  afterwards  applied  most  inopportunely.  Besides 
this,  men  sometimes  write  their  letters  after  their  wine,  or  when 
sleepy,  or  tired,  or  half-sick,  or  when  preoccupied  with  other 
affairs,  or  against  their  will — and  very  often  they  accommodate 
their  style  to  the  capacity  or  the  tact  of  their  correspondent." 
What  mischief  will  arise  when  such  letters  get  into  the  hands 
of  those  for  whom  they  were  never  intended  ! 

V.  Letter  to  Dorpius. 

No  such  explanation  or  apology  is  applicable  to  letters 
written  in  order  to  be  spread  about  or  published.  There  are 
two  such  pamphlets,  as  we  should  call  them,  written  by  More 
in  defence  of  Erasmus,  and  of  the  critical  studies  in  which 
Erasmus  was  engaged  on  the  New  Testament  and  on  the 
Fathers,  between  the  years  1516  and  1520.  Of  these  I  shall 
now  speak. 

A  theologian  of  Louvain,  named  Martin  Dorpius,  a  man  of 

*  Letter  507,  to  Beatus  Rhenanus,  prefixed  to  an  edition  of  his  Epistles 
in  1520,  which  he  was  obHged  to  reprint  because  the  letters  had  been 
already  printed  surreptitiously. 

90  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

much  reputation  in  polite  letters  and  a  personal  friend  of 
Erasmus,  had  written  to  him  some  rather  sharp  expostulations, 
both  on  his  Encomium  Morice,  and  on  his  pretension  to  set 
aside  the  authority  of  the  Vulgate  by  a  new  Latin  version. 
When  More  was  in  Flanders  in  the  autumn  of  15 15,  he  saw 
copies  of  these  letters.  He  had  wished  to  make  the  personal 
acquaintance  of  Dorpius,  but  not  having  the  opportunity  of 
meeting  him,  he  wrote  to  him  a  long  Latin  letter  in  defence  of 
Erasmus.  He  complains  especially  that  Dorpius  treats  Eras- 
mus as  if  he  were  a  mere  grammarian,  a  master  of  words  and 
form,  without  theological  learning,  and  also  that  Erasmus  is 
accused  of  attacking  theologians  in  general,  whereas  he  had 
merely  satirised  the  excesses  or  follies  of  a  few.  More  then 
goes  on  to  assert  that  there  are  theologians  who  neither  study 
the  Holy  Scriptures  nor  esteem  the  Fathers,  but  give  themselves 
entirely  to  scholastic  subtleties  and  trifling — men  as  far  removed 
from  true  theology  as  from  common  sense.  Here  More's 
humour  makes  him  illustrate  his  subject  by  a  racy  anecdote  : 
"I  was  dining,"  he  says,  "  with  an  Italian  merchant  as  learned 
as  he  was  rich.*  There  was  present  at  table  a  monk  who  was 
a  theologian  and  a  notable  disputant,  lately  arrived  from  the 
Continent,  for  the  very  purpose  of  ventilating  some  questions 
that  he  had  got  up,  to  see  what  kind  of  debaters  he  could  find 
in  England,  and  to  make  his  name  as  famous  in  England  as  in 
his  own  country.  At  the  dinner  nothing  was  said  by  anyone, 
however  well  weighed  and  guarded,  that  this  man  did  not,  before 
it  was  well  uttered,  seek  to  refute  with  a  syllogism,  though  the 
matter  belonged  neither  to  theology  nor  philosophy  and  was 
altogether  foreign  to  his  profession.  I  am  wrong.  His  pro- 
fession was  to  dispute.  He  had  stated  at  the  beginning  of 
dinner  that  he  was  ready  to  take  either  side  on  any  question. 
By  degrees  our  host,  the  Italian  merchant,  turned  the  conversa- 
tion to  theological  topics,  such  as  usury,  tithes,  or  confession 

*  Probably  Antonio  Bonvisi,  a  great  friend  of  More's  and  a  learned 


to  friars  outside  the  penitent's  parish,  and  the  like.  Whatever 
was  said  the  theologian  took  at  once  the  opposite  view.  .  .  . 
The  merchant  soon  perceived  that  the  monk  was  not  so  well 
up  in  his  Bible  as  he  was  ready  with  his  syllogisms ;  so  he 
began  to  draw  his  arguments  from  authority  rather  than  from 
reason.  He  invented,  ex  tempore,  certain  quotations  in  favour 
of  his  own  side  of  the  question,  taking  one  from  a  supposed 
Epistle  of  St.  Paul,  another  from  St.  Peter,  a  third  from  the 
Gospel,  and  affecting  to  do  this  with  the  greatest  exactness, 
naming  the  chapter,  but  in  such  a  way  that,  if  a  book  was 
divided  into  sixteen  chapters,  he  would  quote  from  the 
twentieth.  What  did  our  theologian  do  now?  Hitherto  he 
had  rolled  himself  up  in  his  spikes  like  a  hedgehog.  Now  he 
has  to  dodge  from  side  to  side  to  escape  these  supposed  texts. 
He  managed  it,  however.  He  had  no  notion  that  the  passages 
quoted  were  spurious,  while,  of  course,  he  could  not  refuse  the 
authority  of  Scripture ;  but,  as,  on  the  other  hand,  it  would  be 
a  base  thing  to  own  himself  beaten,  he  had  his  answer  ready  at 
once.  '  Yes,  sir,'  he  said,  '  your  quotation  is  good,  but  I 
understand  the  text  in  this  way,'  and  then  made  a  distinction 
of  senses,  one  of  which  might  be  in  favour  of  his  adversary,  the 
other  of  himself;  and  when  the  merchant  insisted  that  his  was 
the  only  possible  sense,  the  theologian  swore  till  you  would 
almost  believe  him,  that  the  sense  which  he  had  selected  was 
that  given  by  Nicolas  of  Lyra."  Now  how,  concludes  More, 
can  anyone  help  laughing  at  theologians  like  this?  And  such 
are  the  only  men  ridiculed  by  Erasmus. 

The  passage  I  have  quoted  is  but  a  page  in  a  long  letter  full 
of  erudition,  of  theological  as  well  as  classical  learning,  and  of 
very  earnest  and  eloquent  pleading.  Dorpius  had  seemed  to 
underrate  the  difficulties  of  the  study  of  Holy  Scripture  in 
order  to  exalt  scholastic  theology.  No  professor  of  sacred 
exegesis  could  dwell  more  warmly  on  the  depths  of  God's  word 
than  does  the  witty  lawyer  ;  and  then  turning  to  scholasticism, 
he  says  :  "  But  let  us  suppose  that  Scripture  is  easy,  and  your 

92  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

questions  difficult,  yet  the  knowledge  of  the  former  may  be  far 
more  fruitful  than  the  guessing  at  the  latter.  To  dance  or  to 
bend  double  like  an  acrobat  is  more  difficult  than  to  walk,  and 
it  is  easier  to  masticate  bread  than  to  grind  pot-sherds  between 
the  teeth,  but  what  man  Avould  not  prefer  the  common  processes 
of  nature  to  such  empty  feats  ?  Which,  then,  of  these  disci- 
plines is  the  easier  I  will  not  ask,  but  I  cannot  hear  it  said  that 
these  minute  questionings  are  more  useful  than  the  knowledge 
of  the  sacred  writings  to  the  flock  for  which  Christ  died.  If 
you  merely  maintain  that  they  are  things  worth  studying,  I  will 
not  contest  it ;  if  you  put  them  on  a  level  with  the  dissertations 
of  the  ancient  Fathers,  I  cannot  listen  to  you  ;  but  when  you 
not  only  compare  but  prefer  these  kitchen-maids  to  the  most 
holy  Bible,  the  Queen  of  all  books,  forgive  me,  Dorpius,  but  I 
cannot  refrain  from  saying  to  them  with  Terence  :  Abite  hinc 
in  malam  rem  cum  istac  magnificentia  fugitiva  :  adeo  putatis 
vos  aut  vestra  facta  ignorarier  ?  .   .  . 

"  I  do  not  think  you  will  contest  this  with  me,  that  whatever 
is  necessary  for  salvation  is  communicated  to  us  in  the  first 
place  from  the  sacred  Scriptures,  then  from  the  ancient  inter- 
preters, and  by  traditional  customs  handed  down  from  the 
ancient  Fathers  from  hand  to  hand,  and  in  fine  by  the  sacred 
definitions  of  the  Church.  If,  in  addition  to  all  this,  these 
acute  disputants  have  curiously  discovered  anything,  though  I 
grant  it  may  be  convenient  and  useful,  yet  I  think  it  belongs 
to  the  class  of  things  without  which  it  is  possible  to  live.  Per- 
haps you  will  say  that  in  the  ancient  writers  everything  is  not 
so  ready  at  hand  and  easy  to  find,  not  sorted  so  well  as  in 
modern  writers,  who  have  arranged  whatever  is  known  under 
certain  heads,  and  enrolled  each  individual  in  its  proper  family. 
Well,  I  grant  all  this  ;  and  I  allow  that  there  is  some  conveni- 
ence in  putting  literary  matters  in  their  right  places,  just  as  we 
arrange  our  domestic  furniture,  so  that  without  mistake  we  may 
lay  our  hand  at  once  on  what  we  want.  This  is  a  convenience, 
yet  it  is  used  so  inconveniently  by  some,  that  it  would  be 


almost  better  to  be  without  it.  The  reason  why  the  ancient 
interpreters  are  so  much  neglected,  is  because  certain  unhappy 
geniuses  have  first  persuaded  themselves,  and  then  led  others 
to  believe,  that  there  is  nowhere  any  honey  besides  what  has 
already  been  stored  up  in  the  hives  of  the  Summists.  .  .  . 
Theologians  of  this  kind,  who  read  nothing  of  the  Fathers  or  of 
the  Scriptures  except  in  the  Sentences,  and  the  commentators 
on  the  Sentences,  seem  to  me  to  act  as  if  one  were  to  set  aside 
all  the  authors  who  have  written  in  Latin,  and,  gathering  the 
rules  of  grammar  from  Alexander,  try  to  learn  all  else  from  the 
Cornucopia  of  Perottus  and  from  Calepinus,  being  convinced 
that  all  Latin  words  will  be  found  there.  Well,  most  words 
will  be  found  there,  and  the  choicest  words,  and  the  sentences 
from  ancient  poets  and  orators,  some  of  whom  are  no  longer 
extant  elsewhere.  Yet  such  a  method  will  never  make  a  good 
Latinist.  And  so  also,  though  in  your  Summists  and  Masters 
of  Sentences  you  will  find  many  sayings  of  the  ancients  quoted 
as  authorities,  yet  the  study  of  these  things  alone  will  never 
make  a  good  theologian,  even  though  he  is  conversant  with 
ten  thousand  thorny  questions.  .  .  . 

"  And  what  purpose  does  this  kind  of  theology  serve  ?  To 
convert  or  refute  heretics  ?  Certainly  not.  If  these  are  un- 
learned you  might  as  well  try  to  bring  a  Turk  to  the  faith  by  a 
French  sermon.  If  they  are  learned,  these  very  questions 
supply  them  with  weapons.  It  becomes  like  a  fight  between 
two  naked  men  among  a  heap  of  sharp  stones  ;  each  of  them 
has  the  means  of  injuring  the  other,  and  neither  of  them  can 
defend  himself.  Heretics  are  versed  in  all  these  tricks,  and 
would  never  be  overcome  by  such  theologians,  if  they  were  not 
more  afraid  of  one  faggot  than  of  whole  bundles  of  these  syllo- 
gisms. Can  such  a  theologian  make  a  preacher?  Why,  as  the 
people  understand  nothing  of  this  kind  of  language,  he  must 
lay  it  aside  and  learn  by  heart  a  sermon  from  his  Ve7ii  vieciun 
or  his  Dornii secure*  foolish  in  itself,  and  when  it  is  declaimed 

*  The  names  of  popular  sermon  manuals. 

94  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

by  a  man  more  foolish  still,  how  dull  and  stupid  the  whole 
affair  will  be." 

The  above  passages  must  suffice  as  specimens  both  of  the 
style  and  matter  of  More's  first  public  essay  in  theology.  We 
know  that  even  before  his  death  an  immense  movement  had 
begun  in  the  Church,  both  in  scriptural  and  patristic  studies, 
while  scholastic  theology  was  purified  and  developed.  It  can 
scarcely  be  denied  that  an  English  layman  may  claim  some 
influence  in  this  movement.  Of  More's  knowledge  in  theology 
a  further  account  will  be  given  when  we  come  to  his  English 
controversial  works. 

The  letter  which  More  wrote  to  Dorpius  was  well  received 
by  him,  and  he  publicly  retracted  what  he  had  written  against 
Erasmus.  Nothing  can  be  prettier  than  the  letter  in  which 
More  congratulates  him  on  this  magnanimity.  "  It  is  well-nigh 
impossible,"  he  says,  "to  extort  a  retractation  even  from  the 
most  modest.  Almost  all  are  so  stupid  with  false  shame  that 
they  would  rather  show  themselves  always  fools,  than  acknow- 
ledge that  they  were  such  once  ;  while  you,  who  have  so  much 
cleverness,  learning  and  eloquence,  that  even  if  you  were  to 
defend  something  quite  improbable  or  purely  paradoxical,  you 
would  be  able  to  convince  your  readers  ;  you,  I  say,  caring 
more  for  truth  than  for  appearances,  prefer  to  tell  all  the  world 
that  you  were  once  deceived,  rather  than  to  go  on  deceiving. 
Such  an  act  will  bring  you  eternal  glory."*  More  himself  did 
his  best  to  suppress  the  letter  that  had  gained  this  victory,  f 

VI.  Letter  to  a  Monk. 

There  is  another  letter  or  pamphlet,  written  a  few  years 
later,  also  in  defence  of  Erasmus,  but  in  a  much  severer  tone. 

*  Letter  in  Jortin  ii.  668. 

t  See  his  letter  to  Lee,  lb.,  653,  It  was,  however,  reprinted  in  1525. 
Thomac  Mori  Disscrtatio  Epistolica  dc  aliquot  sui  tcmporis  thcologas- 
trorinn  incptiis,  etc.,  Ad  Mariiiiiiiii  Dorpiiun.  Liigduni  Batavorum,  1525. 
It  is  now  in  his  collected  works. 


A  monk  of  a  contemplative  order,  whom  More  had  known  as 
a  youth  before  his  entrance  into  reHgion,  had  taken  on  himself 
to  write  a  letter  of  very  solemn  warning  against  the  errors  of 
Erasmus,  and  the  danger  to  More's  eternal  welfare  of  associating 
with  such  a  man.  There  was  a  tone  of  assumed  sanctity  in 
the  letter,  united  with  calumnies  so  atrocious,  that  More  thought 
it  his  duty,  not  only  to  defend  Erasmus,  but  to  strip  the  mask 
of  false  zeal  from  his  assailant,  to  show  him  how  rash  were  his 
judgments,  how  grossly  unjust  his  words  ;  and,  to  bring  home 
the  matter,  he  pointed  out  how  hypocrisy  and  superstition,  and 
even  gross  immorality,  sometimes  get  into  the  cloister,  so  that 
it  was  more  befitting  for  a  contemplative  monk  to  watch 
against  spiritual  pride,  than  to  meddle  with  things  out  of  his 
sphere,  to  criticise  one  far  more  learned  than  himself,  and  to 
blame  where  the  Sovereign  Pontiff  approved.  Out  of  this 
letter  I  will  merely  select  a  few  passages,  which  may  show 
Blessed  Thomas  More  in  his  graver  mood,  when  his  indigna- 
tion had  been  stirred  by  an  unjust  attack,  not  on  himself,  but 
on  his  esteemed  and  beloved  friend. 

"  I  wonder,"  he  says,  "  at  the  unbounded  leisure,  which  you 
find  to  devote  to  schismatical  and  heretical  books.  Or  have 
you  so  few  good  books  that  you  are  obliged  to  consume  your 
short  leisure  on  bad  ones  ?  If  the  books  (of  Erasmus)  are 
good,  why  do  you  condemn  them  ?  If  they  are  bad,  why  do 
you  read  them  ?  As  you  gave  up  the  care  of  the  world,  when 
you  shut  yourself  up  in  the  cloister,  you  are  not  one  of  those 
to  whom  leave  is  given  to  read  bad  books  for  the  sake  of 
refuting  them.  Hence  by  reading  what  is  perverse  you  are 
merely  learning  it.  Not  only  do  you  spend  good  hours  on 
bad  books,  but  you  consume  much  time,  as  it  appears,  in  talk 
and  gossip  worse  than  bad  books  ;  so  that  I  notice  there  is 
no  kind  of  rumour  or  calumny  which  does  not  find  its  way 
straight  to  your  cell.  We  read  that  formerly  monks  so  hid 
themselves  from  the  world,  that  they  would  not  even  read  the 
letters  sent  to  them  by  their  friends,  nor  glance  back  at  the 

96  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Sodom  they  had  left.  Now,  I  see,  they  read  schismatical  and 
heretical  books,  and  immense  volumes  filled  with  mere  trifles. 
Now,  what  they  formerly  dreaded  to  hear  in  the  world,  and 
fled  to  the  cloister  lest  they  should  hear  it,  the  cunning 
enemy  has  found  a  means  of  carrying  into  their  very  cells. 
Their  solemn  religious  surroundings  only  serve  to  impose  on 
the  unwary,  their  leisure  serves  to  elaborate  their  calumnies, 
their  retirement  from  the  eyes  of  men  to  prevent  them  from 
being  abashed,  and  their  closed  cells  to  injure  the  reputation 
of  those  outside.  Whoever  enters  their  cells  must  say  an  Our 
Father  that  the  conversation  may  be  holy.  But  where  is  the 
use  of  beginning  slanderous  gossip  with  the  Lord's  Prayer  ? 
If  that  is  not  taking  the  Name  of  God  in  vain,  what  is  ?  "  * 

More's  rebukes  are  severe.  From  the  same  letter  I  give  one 
specimen  of  a  lighter  style,  because  it  brings  before  us  an 
incident  of  his  life. 

"  There  was  at  Coventry  a  Franciscan  of  the  unreformed 
sort.  This  man  preached  in  the  city,  the  suburbs,  the  neigh- 
bourhood, and  villages  about,  that  whosoever  should  say  daily 
the  Psalter  of  the  Blessed  Virgin  \i.e.^  the  fifteen  decades  of  the 
Rosary]  could  never  be  lost.  The  people  listened  greedily  to 
this  easy  way  of  getting  to  heaven.  The  pastor  there,  an 
excellent  and  learned  man,  though  he  thought  the  saying  very 
foolish,  said  nothing  for  a  time,  thinking  that  no  harm  would 
come  from  it,  since  the  people  would  become  the  more  devout  to 
God  from  greater  devotion  to  the  Blessed  Virgin.  But  at  last  he 
found  his  flock  infected  with  such  a  disease  that  the  very  worst 
were  especially  addicted  to  the  Rosary  for  no  other  reason  than 
that  they  promised  themselves  impunity  in  everything ;  for 
how  could  they  doubt  of  heaven,  when  it  was  promised  to 
them  with  such  assurance  by  so  grave  a  man,  a  friar  direct 
from  heaven  ?  The  pastor  then  began  to  warn  his  flock  not  to 
trust  too  much   in  the  Rosary,  even  though  they  said  it  ten 

*  Apud  Jortin,  ii.  687. 


times  a  day  ;  that  those  who  would  say  it  well  would  do  an 
excellent  thing,  provided  they  did  not  say  it  with  presumption, 
otherwise  they  would  do  better  to  omit  the  prayers  altogether, 
on  condition  that  they  omitted  also  the  crimes  which  they  were 
committing  more  easily  under  the  shelter  of  these  prayers. 

"  AVhen  he  said  this  from  the  pulpit  he  was  heard  with 
indignation,  and  everywhere  spoken  of  as  an  emeny  of  Our 
Lady.  Another  day  the  friar  mounts  the  pulpit,  and  to  hit  the 
parish  priest  harder  takes  for  his  text  the  words,  Dignare  me 
laudart  te,  Virgo  sacrata  ;  da  viihi  virtiitem  co7itra  hastes  tuos. 
For  they  say  that  Scotus  used  this  text  at  Paris  when  disputing 
on  the  Immaculate  Conception,  having  been  transported  there, 
as  they  falsely  allege,  in  a  moment,  from  a  distance  of  300 
miles,  as  the  Virgin  otherwise  would  have  been  in  danger.  Of 
course  our  friar  easily  convinces  men  so  willing  to  listen  to  him 
that  the  pastor  was  as  foolish  as  he  w\is  impious. 

"  While  the  matter  was  at  its  hottest,  it  happened  that  I 
arrived  at  Coventry  on  a  visit  to  my  sister.*  I  had  scarcely 
got  off  my  horse  when  the  question  was  proposed  also  to  me, 
whether  anyone  could  be  damned  who  should  daily  recite  the 
Rosary  ?  I  laughed  at  the  foolish  question,  but  was  at  once 
warned  that  I  was  doing  a  dangerous  thing  ;  that  a  most  holy 
and  most  learned  father  had  preached  against  those  who  did 
so.  I  pooh-poohed  the  whole  matter  as  no  affair  of  mine.  I 
was  immediately  invited  to  a  dinner,  and  accepted  the  invitation 
and  went.  There  enters  also  an  old  friar  with  head  bent,  grave 
and  grim  ;  a  boy  follows  him  with  books.  I  saw  that  I  was  in 
for  a  quarrel.  We  sat  down,  and  no  time  was  lost ;  the  ques- 
tion was  at  once  proposed  by  the  host.  The  friar  answered 
just  as  he  had  preached.  I  said  nothing  ;  I  do  not  like  to 
meddle  in  odious  and  fruitless  disputes.  At  last  they  asked  my 
opinion.    As  I  was  obliged  to  speak,  I  told  them  what  I  thought, 

*  It  will  be  remembered  that  More  had  two  sisters,  both  married.  As 
Rastell's  wife  lived  in  London,  this  must  have  been  his  eldest  sister,  Jane, 
married  to  Richard  StafFerton. 


98  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

but  only  in  a  few  words  and  without  emphasis.  Then  the 
friar  pours  out  a  long  prepared  speech  which  might  have  made 
two  sermons.  His  whole  argument  hung  on  certain  miracles 
which  he  read  from  a  Mariale  and  from  other  books  of  that 
kind,  which  he  had  brought  to  table  for  greater  authority. 
When  at  last  he  had  come  to  an  end,  I  modestly  replied  that 
he  had  said  nothing  in  his  whole  discourse  capable  of  con- 
vincing those  who  should  not  admit  the  truth  of  those  miracles, 
which  they  might  perhaps  deny  without  abjuring  the  Christian 
faith  ;  and  that  even  if  they  were  perfectly  true,  they  did  not 
prove  his  point.  For  though  you  may  easily  find  a  king  ready 
to  pardon  something  in  an  enemy  at  the  prayers  of  his  mother, 
yet  there  is  nowhere  one  so  great  a  fool  as  to  promulgate  a  law 
by  which  to  encourage  the  audacity  of  his  subjects  against 
himself,  by  a  promise  of  impunity  to  traitors,  on  condition 
of  their  paying  a  certain  homage  to  his  mother.  Much  was 
said  on  both  sides,  but  I  only  succeeded  in  getting  laughed  at 
while  he  was  extolled.  The  matter  reached  at  last  such  a 
height  through  the  depraved  dispositions  of  men  who,  under 
colour  of  piety,  favoured  their  own  vices,  that  it  could  hardly 
be  calmed  down,  though  the  bishop  strove  to  do  so  with  all 
his  strength. 

"  I  have  not  related  this  in  order  to  impute  crime  to  any 
body  of  religious,  since  the  same  ground  produces  herbs  both 
wholesome  and  poisonous  ;  nor  do  I  wish  to  find  fault  with 
the  custom  of  those  who  salute  Our  Lady,  than  which  nothing 
can  be  more  beneficial ;  but  because  some  trust  so  much  in 
their  devotions  that  they  draw  from  them  boldness  to  sin.  It 
is  such  things  as  these  that  Erasmus  censures ;  if  anyone  is 
indignant  against  him  for  it,  why  is  he  not  also  indignant  with 
St.  Jerome  ?  "  * 

*  76.,  p.  693.  This  letter  was  first  printed  at  Basle  by  Froben  in  1520, 
amongst  a  number  of  letters  against  Edward  Lee,  though  there  is  no 
reference  in  it  to  Lee.  On  the  above  passage  Mr.  Seebohm  finds  nothing 
more  appropriate  to  say,  than  that,   although   More  had  not  set  aside 


From  passages  like  those  here  quoted,  some  writers  have 
drawn  the  conclusion  that  More's  early  veneration  for  religious 
orders  had  been  shaken,  when  he  discovered  how  much  the 
reality  differed  from  his  ideal.  They  should  have  marked 
more  carefully  what  he  says  in  the  same  letter  :  "  I  have  no 
doubt  that  there  is  no  good  man  to  be  found  anywhere,  to 
whom  all  religious  orders  are  not  extremely  dear  and  cherished. 
Not  only  have  I  ever  loved  them,  but  intensely  venerated 
them  ;  for  I  have  been  wont  to  honour  the  poorest  person 
commended  by  his  virtue,  more  than  one  who  is  merely 
ennobled  by  his  riches  or  illustrious  by  his  birth.  I  desire, 
indeed,  all  mortals  to  honour  you  and  your  orders,  and  to 
regard  you  with  the  deepest  charity,  for  your  merits  deserve  it ; 
and  I  know  that  by  your  prayers  the  misery  of  the  world  itself 
is  somewhat  diminished.  If  the  assiduous  prayer  of  the  just 
man  is  of  much  value,  what  must  be  the  efficacy  of  the  un- 
wearied prayers  of  so  many  thousands  ?  Yet,  on  the  other 
hand,  I  would  wish  that  you  should  not  with  a  false  zeal  be  so 
partial  to  yourselves,  that  if  anyone  ventures  to  touch  on  what 
regards  you,  you  should  try,  by  your  way  of  relating  it,  to  give 
an  evil  turn  to  what  he  has  said  well,  or  that  what  he  at  least 
intended  well  you  should  misinterpret  and  pervert." 

In  going  to  the  root  of  this  touchiness.  More  remarks  both 
wisely  and  wittily  :  "  Everyone  loves  what  is  his  own — his  own 
farm,  his  own  money,  his  own  nation,  his  own  guild  or  associa- 
tion. We  prefer  our  own  private  fasts  to  the  public  fasts  of 
the  Church.  If  we  have  chosen  a  patron  saint,  we  make  more 
of  him  than  of  ten  more  excellent,  because  he  is  our  own,  and 
the  rest  of  the  saints  belong   to   all.      Now,  if  anyone  finds 

mariolatry  he  was  travelling  in  that  direction.  That  Luther  had  not 
then  (in  15 19)  travelled  so  far,  though  in  after  years  he  travelled  faster  ! 
{Oxford  Reformers,  p.  476.)  Surely  More  was  a  man  acute  enough  to 
know  in  what  direction  he  had  been  travelling.  When  we  come  to  his 
controversies  with  the  Lutherans  we  shall  hear  his  own  account  of  the 


fault  with  this  partiaHty,  he  is  not  carping  at  the  piety  of  the 
people,  but  warning  them  lest,  under  pretext  of  piety,  impiety 
find  an  entrance.  No  one  will  blame  a  nation  for  honouring 
a  certain  saint  by  name,  for  good  reasons  ;  yet,  it  may  occur 
to  some  that  such  partiality  is  carried  too  far,  when  the  patron 
saint  of  a  hostile  country  is  torn  down  and  thrown  out  of  a 
church  into  the  mud.  * 

"  Now,  just  as  this  kind  of  veneration  and  private  ceremonial 
does  not  always  turn  out  well  with  us  laymen,  neither  does 
partisanship  always  thrive  with  you  who  are  religious.  Many 
esteem  their  own  devotions  and  practices  more  than  those  of 
their  monastery;  those  of  their  own  monastery  more  than  those 
of  their  order ;  those  of  their  own  order  more  than  what  belongs 
to  all  religious ;  and  those  which  are  peculiar  to  religious  they 
set  more  value  on  than  the  lowly,  humble  things  which  belong 
specially  to  no  one,  but  are  common  to  the  w^hole  Christian 
people — such  as  the  plebeian  virtues  of  faith,  hope  and  charity, 
the  fear  of  God,  humility,  and  such  like.  This  is  no  new  thing. 
It  is  a  long  time  since  Christ  reproved  the  chosen  race  :  '  Why 
do  you  transgress  the  commandments  of  God  for  your  tradi- 
tions?' Of  course,  those  who  do  so  will  deny  it.  Who  is  so 
senseless  as  to  confess  to  himself  that  he  makes  more  account 
of  ceremonies  than  of  precepts,  since  he  knows  that,  unless  he 
obeys  the  latter,  the  former  are  useless  ?  Doubtless  all  will 
answer  well  in  words  if  they  are  questioned  ;  but  by  their 
doings  they  belie  their  words.  May  I  be  held  a  liar  if  there 
are  not  religious  in  certain  places  who  observe  silence  so  obsti- 
nately that  at  no  price  could  you  get  them  even  to  whisper  in 
their  corridors ;  but,  draw  them  one  foot  outside,  and  they  will 
not  hesitate  to  storm  at  whoever  offends  them.  There  are  some 
who  would  fear  lest  the  devil  should  carry  them  off  alive  if  they 
made  any  change  in  their  dress,  and  who  have  no  fear  of  heap- 

*  Perhaps  St.  Denis  had  been  thus  treated  at  the  cry  of  "  St.  George 
for  England,"  during  the  French  wars. 


ing  up  money,  of  opposing  and  deposing  their  abbot.  Are  there 
not  many  who,  if  they  omitted  a  verse  of  their  office,  would  think 
it  a  crime  to  be  expiated  with  many  tears,  and  who  have  not  the 
least  scruple  to  take  part  in  calumnious  gossip  longer  than  their 
longest  prayers  ?  Thus  they  crush  a  gnat  and  swallow  an  ele- 
phant whole."  * 

I  have  given  these  long  quotations  that  the  reader  may  know 
the  good  and  evil  of  More's  times,  and  may  see  him  in  his 
many-sided  character,  and  not  be  led  to  believe,  by  a  short 
sentence  taken  here  or  there  from  his  writings,  that  he  was 
either  an  incipient  rationalist  or  a  narrow-minded  bigot. 

VII.  Utopia. 

I  now  come  to  his  Utopia.  This  is  the  work  by  which  More 
is  best  known.  He  wrote  it  in  Latin,  and,  though  it  was  soon 
translated  into  French  and  other  European  languages,  it  was 
not  translated  into  English  until  long  after  his  death.  He  cer- 
tainly had  no  wish  that  it  should  be  read  by  the  people  of 
England  in  the  days  of  Henry  VIII.  Neither  its  serious  wis- 
dom nor  its  peculiar  irony,  nor  its  subtle  mixture  of  philosophy 
and  banter,  were  on  the  level  of  the  half-educated  men  and 
women  who  could  only  read  English.  Probably  More  was  not 
loth  that  his  free  speculations  should  be  unknown  to  some  of 
the  great  lords,  like  the  Dukes  of  Norfolk  and  Suffolk,  who 
ruled  in  the  king's  council. 

The  second  book  of  the  Utopia  was  written  first,  probably 
during  the  leisure  hours  of  his  first  embassy  in  Flanders.  He 
there  showed  it  to  some  of  his  learned  friends,  such  as  Giles 
and  Busleyden.  He  was  urged  by  them  so  earnestly  to  com- 
plete and  publish  it  that  he  set  about  writing  the  Introduction, 
or  first  part,  on  his  return  to  England  in  151 6.  It  was  printed 
in  Louvain  by  Thierry  Martins  in  December,  15 16,  under  the 
editorship  of  Erasmus,  Peter  Giles,  and  others.  The  reprints 
have  been  innumerable. 

*  Ih.,  691. 

T02  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

The  book  is  so  well  known  that  it  need  scarcely  be  saidj^hat 
an  imaginary  Portuguese  traveller,  named  Raphael  Hythloday, 
a  companion  of  Amerigo  Vespucci,  is  supposed  to  have  met 
More  and  Peter  Giles  at  Antwerp,  and  to  have  described  to 
them  the  institutions  of  a  wonderful  people  he  had  found  in  an 
island  called  Utopia  or  Nowhere.*  I  will  not  here  analyse  his 
book,  nor  mention  the  various  social,  political,  philosophical 
and  religious  questions  on  which  he  treats.  Every  educated 
man  should  read  Utopia  for  himself;  but,  in  doing  so,  he  must 
bear  in  mind  the  peculiarity  of  More's  character  and  the  circum- 
stances in  which  the  book  was  published. 

As  regards  More  himself,  Erasmus  has  remarked  that  his 
countenance  was  often  a  mystery,  so  that  even  members  of  his 
own  family  would  be  puzzled  to  gather  from  his  look  or  tone 
whether  he  was  speaking  in  jest  or  in  earnest.!     So  it  was  his 

""  Philomorus  quotes  an  epigram  by  John  Heywood,  a  contemporary  of 
More's,  to  the  effect  that  More  wrote  his  Utopia  at  North  Mimms.  in 
Hertfordshire,  where  he  had  a  house  : 

"  There  famous  More  did  his  Utopia  write, 
And  there  came  Heywood's  epigrams  to  light  ". 

- — PJiiloiiionis,  p.  g. 
But  this  is  doubtful.  Sir  yoJm  More  had  a  residence  at  North  Mimms, 
but  probably  at  a  later  date.  Utopia  (Ovtottos)  or  Niisquaiita  (as  More 
sometimes  calls  it  in  his  letters),  "Nowhere".  Revised  and  reprinted 
by  Froben  at  Basle,  November,  1518;  reprinted  in  Paris  and  Vienna 
during  the  author's  life,  but  not  in  England.  An  English  translation,  by 
Ralph  Robinson,  appeared  in  1551  ;  it  has  been  reprinted  by  Dibdin,  by 
Arber,  and  Lumley.  Dibdin's  edition,  with  his  notes,  was  beautifully 
reprinted  by  Roberts  in  1878.  Another  translation  was  made  by  Burnet 
in  1684;  it  has  been  edited  by  Mr.  Morley  in  Cassell's  National  Library 
(price  3d.).  The  introduction  and  notes  to  Mr.  Lumley's  edition  will  be 
found  very  useful  to  those  who  wish  to  study  the  book.  He  has  joined 
with  it  Roper's  Life  of  More. 

t  More  himself  refers  to  this.  In  his  Dialogue  his  companion  says  : 
"  Ye  use  (my  master  saith)  to  look  so  sadly  when  ye  mean  merrily,  that 
many  times  man  doubt  whether  ye  speak  in  sport  when  ye  mean  good 
earnest"  {English  Works,  p.  127). 


peculiar  humour  to  mystify  his  readers.  "  He  hovers,"  says 
Mr.  Brewer,  "  so  perpetually  on  the  confines  of  jest  and 
earnest,  passes  so  naturally  from  one  to  the  other,  that  the 
reader  is  in  constant  suspense  whether  his  jest  be  serious  or 
his  seriousness  a  jest."  *  There  was  policy  in  adopting  this 
style  in  the  Utopia.  He  had  some  rude  truths  to  tell  the  king, 
as  will  be  seen  in  a  future  chapter;  he  had  many  burning 
questions  to  discuss  ;  it  was  necessary  therefore  to  mix  with 
them  some  matters  which  could  not  be  taken  seriously  or 
attributed  to  him  as  his  own  opinions.  Thus  he  says  of  the 
Utopians  that  they  have  no  lawyers  among  them,  and  consider 
them  as  a  sort  of  people  whose  profession  it  is  to  disguise 
matters  and  to  wrest  the  laws  aside.  Who  can  say  whether 
this  does  or  does  not  express  his  real  opinion  ?  The  Utopians 
use  no  money,  and  have  no  private  property.  Such  a  supposi- 
tion gave  him  scope  to  show  the  evils  that  come  from  avarice 
and  attend  property  ;  but  no  one  can  argue  that  More  seriously 
taught  communism  or  the  injustice  of  private  property.  There 
is  a  voluntary  communism  which  the  Church  has  ever  approved 
in  her  religious  orders,  and  which,  in  Apostolic  days,  was 
practised  even  by  families.  More  merely  supposes  this  to  be 
adopted  by  a  whole  nation.  He  attributes  to  his  islanders 
most  repulsive  principles  on  treachery  in  war.  Under  cover  of 
this  he  writes  many  things  concerning  European  military  tactics 
and  diplomatic  treaties  that  it  would  have  been  dangerous  to 
state  without  a  mixture  of  absurdity. 

Mr.  Seebohm,  nevertheless,  seems  to  think  that  whatever 
More  writes  on  the  subject  of  religion,  on  toleration,  on  divorce, 
and  the  rest,  must  have  represented  his  serious  views  at  that 
time  of  his  life.  His  analysis  is  as  follows  :  "  Their  priests 
were  very  few  in  number,  of  either  sex,  and,  like  all  other 
magistrates,  elected  by  ballot ;  and  it  was  a  point  of  dispute 
even  with  the  Utopian   Christiafts  whether  they  could  not  elect 

*  Introduction  to  Letters  and  Papers,  ii.  p.  26S. 

104  SIR    THOISIAS    MORE. 

their  own  Christian  priests  in  like  manner,  and  quaHfy  them  to 
perform  all  priestly  offices,  without  any  Apostolic  succession  or 
authority  from  the  Pope.  Their  priests  were,  in  fact,  rather 
conductors  of  the  public  worship,  inspectors  of  the  public 
morals,  and  ministers  of  education,  than  '  priests '  in  any 
sacerdotal  sense  of  the  word.  .  .  .  The  hatred  of  the  Oxford 
Reformers  for  the  endless  dissensions  of  European  Christians 
.  .  .  pointed  to  a  mode  of  worship  in  which  all  of  every  shade 
of  sentiment  could  unite."*  What  are  we  to  think  of  all  this  ? 
Was  Thomas  More  in  151 6  really  an  advanced  Protestant  of 
the  type  here  described?  If  not,  why  are  these  things  in  his 
Utopia  ?  The  simple  answer  seems  to  be  that  More  is 
describing  purely  natural  and  unrevealed  religion.  He  admits 
that  in  Utopia  there  were  many  opinions  and  divisions  in 
religion,  and  even  some  idolatry.  To  the  better  class,  how- 
ever, he  attributes  a  kind  of  beautiful  deism,  not  as  something 
which  he  would  substitute  for  Christianity,  but  which  might  be 
an  excellent  preparation  for  Christianity,  could  it  be  supposed 
to  exist,  and  in  the  description  of  which  he  could  reprove  some 
vices  of  professing  Christians.  Thus,  for  example,  in  the 
eagerness  of  the  Utopians  to  die,  in  order  to  see  and  possess 
the  God  whom  they  worshipped,  he  indirectly  satirises  the 
reluctance  of  Christians  to  go  and  enjoy  the  Beatific  Vision. 
But  if  he  so  extols  the  natural  piety  of  his  Utopians  as  to  put 
Christians  to  the  blush,  surely  it  by  no  means  follows  that  the 
Christian  revelation,  in  More's  view,  contained  nothing  regard- 
ing the  sacrifice  of  the  Mass  or  the  sacrament  of  Holy  Orders. 
We  know  that  More,  from  his  boyhood,  had  the  tenderest 
devotion  to  Our  Lord's  Passion,  and  the  firmest  belief  in  the 
redemption  of  the  world  by  the  Precious  Blood.  Yet  he  writes 
of  his  Utopians  :  "  'J'hey  offer  up  no  living  creature  in  sacrifice, 
nor  do  they  think  it  suitable  to  the  Divine  Being,  from  whose 
bounty  it  is  that  those  creatures  had  derived  their  lives,  to  take 

*  Oxford  Reformers,  p.  363. 


pleasure  in  their  deaths  or  the  offering  up  of  their  blood".  It 
would  be  as  reasonable  to  conclude  from  these  words  that 
More  was  a  Socinian  at  heart  as  that  he  was  sceptical  regarding 
the  constitution  and  discipline  of  the  Catholic  Church  because 
of  his  pictures  of  Utopian  modes  of  worship.  This  would  be  a 
perfectly  legitimate  answer  to  Mr.  Seebohm's  conclusions  had 
More  died,  like  his  friend  Colet,  before  the  Lutheran  and 
Zwinglian  heresies  had  arisen.  But  what  can  be  the  purpose 
of  arguing  by  induction  from  a  w^ork  which  was  put  out  as  a 
jeu  d' esprit  when  the  writer  has  left  hundreds  of  pages  in 
which  his  real  belief  is  expressed  without  ambiguity  ? 

x\mong  the  various  points  of  Utopian  discipline  let  us  take 
the  first  in  Mr.  Seebohm's  enumeration  as  a  specimen.  More 
says  that  the  female  sex  was  not  excluded  from  the  priesthood, 
though  female  priests  wTre  fe\v,  and  only  widows  advanced  in 
age  were  elected.  What  is  there  in  this  contrary  to  natural 
religion,  which  More  is  describing  ?  And  considering  the  kind 
of  functions  which  alone  he  assigns  to  priests,  what  is  there  in 
this  contrary  even  to  Catholic  discipline,  which  has  ever  given 
a  high  and  honourable  part  to  women,  especially  in  religious 
orders  ?  But  the  question  is  whether  More  held  that  in 
Christ's  Church  there  is  no  Apostolical  succession,  no  sacrament 
of  Holy  Orders,  no  Divinely  communicated  jurisdiction,  no 
Divinely  appointed  distinction  between  the  sexes  as  regards  the 
priesthood.  Well,  it  so  happens  that  Tindall,  an  English 
Lutheran,  put  out  a  theory  that  in  case  of  need — as,  for  example, 
if  a  woman  were  cast  by  shipwreck  on  an  island  where  there 
were  no  Christians — she  might  preach  and  consecrate  the  Holy 
Eucharist.  More  replied:  "Tindall  may  make  himself  sure, 
that  since  there  falleth  not  a  sparrow  upon  the  ground  without 
Our  Father  that  is  in  heaven,  there  shall  no  woman  fall  aland 
in  any  so  far  an  island,  where  God  will  have  His  name  preached 
and  His  sacraments  ministered,  but  that  (iod  can,  and  will, 
well  enough  provide  a  man  or  twain  to  come  to  land  with  her  ; 
whereof  we  have  had  already  meeily  good  experience,  and  that 

Io6  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

within  few  years.  For  I  am  sure  there  hath  been  more  islands 
and  more  part  of  the  firm  land  and  continent  discovered  and 
founden  out,  within  these  forty  years  last  past,  than  was  new 
founden,  as  far  as  any  man  may  perceive,  this  three  thousand 
years  afore.  And  in  many  of  these  places  the  name  of  Christ, 
now  new  known  too,  and  preachings  had,  and  sacraments  mini- 
stered, without  any  woman  fallen  aland  alone.  But  God  hath 
provided  that  His  name  is  preached  by  such  good  Christian 
folk  as  Tindall  now  most  raileth  upon,  that  is  good  religious 
friars,  and  specially  the  Friar  Observants,  honest,  godly,  chaste, 
virtuous  people  ;  not  by  such  as  Friar  Luther  is,  that  is  run  out 
of  religion,  nor  by  casting  to  land  alone  any  such  holy  nun  as 
his  harlot  is."*  And  in  another  place  :  "  His  heresy  reckoneth 
every  woman  a  priest,  and  as  able  to  say  Mass  as  ever  was  St. 
Peter.  And  in  good  faith,  as  for  such  Masses  as  he  would  have 
said,  without  the  canon,  without  the  secrets,  without  oblation, 
without  sacrifice,  without  the  Body  or  Blood  of  Christ,  with 
bare  signs  and  tokens  instead  of  the  Blessed  Sacrament,  I  ween 
a  woman  were  indeed  a  more  meet  priest  than  St.  Peter."  f 

As  early  as  1523,  that  is,  seven  years  after  the  pubHcation  of 
the  Utopia^  those  very  points  which  Mr.  Seebohm  would  per- 
suade the  world  were  the  advanced  liberal  creed  of  Colet,  More, 
and  Erasmus,  More  had  selected  as  the  iiisanissiina  dogmatay 
the  "  most  mad  doctrines  "  of  Luther.J     Nor  did  it  once  occur 

*  English  Works,  p.  428. 

\  lb.,  p.  623. 

X  Luther  rejected  the  visible  Catholic  Church  and  appealed  to  the  true 
invisible  Church  of  Christ.  More  takes  him  at  his  word  and  answers 
him  as  follows:  "  Profer  tu  gentem  aliquam,  ubi  unquam  in  tot  aetatibus, 
ante  natum  te,  tuai  probatae  sunt  haereses.  Ostende  apud  quos  Christi- 
anos  sacerdos  nil  distarlt  a  laico,  apud  quos  Christianos  mulieres  admissas 
sint  ad  audiendas  confessiones,  ubi  creditai  sint  foeminae  sacerdotes  esse 
et  idoneas  quae  conficerent  Eucharistiam.  Quaecumque  tot  aetatibus  vera 
fuit  ecclesia,  sive  ilia  fuit  bonorum  malorumque  multitudo  promiscua,  sive 


to  him,  or  to  his  opponents,  that  these  were  the  very  doctrines 
that  he  and  his  friends  Colet  and  Erasmus  had  secretly  held, 
or  endeavoured  covertly  to  insinuate. 

As  regards  the  Utopia,  Harpsfield  assures  us  that  the  zeal 
of  many  good  priests  was  so  stirred  in  reading  More's  account 
of  this  admirable  people,  so  near  to  the  kingdom  of  God,  that 
they  wished  to  set  out  at  once  to  convert  them  to  the  faith  of 
Christ.  Their  innocent  error  in  taking  Utopia  for  a  real 
country  was  not  so  ridiculous  as  that  of  Mr.  Seebohm,  in 
taking  More's  description  of  their  religion  for  More's  own  pro- 
fession of  Christianity.* 

VIII.  Epigrams. 

Together  with  the  Basle  edition  of  the  Utopia  there  appeared 
in  March,  15 18,  a  collection  of  Latin  Epigrams,  by  Thomas 
More  and  William  Lilly,  and  a  further  series  by  Erasmus.  A 
second  edition  came  out  in  November  of  the  same  year,  and  a 
more  complete  collection  in  1520.  Prefixed  is  a  letter  of 
Erasmus  to  Eroben,  the  publisher,  in  which  he  says  :  "  What 
might  have  been  expected  had  Italy  given  birth  to  so  happy  a 
genius,  if  he  had  given  himself  entirely  to  the  Muses,  and  if  his 
talent  had  ripened   to  its  autumnal  fruit  ?     Eor  he  was  but  a 

numerus  duntaxat  bonorum,  sive  in  his  regionibus  quae  parent  Romano 
Pontifici,  sive  alibi  ubicumque  terrarum,  semper  contra  te  sensit  ilia,  et 
tua  damnavit  insanissima  dogmata  "  {Rcsponsio  ad  Luthcrmii,  cap.  x. 
p.  62,  ed.  Francofurt). 

*  "  The  true  notion  of  Utopia  is,  that  it  intimates  a  variety  of  doctrines, 
and  exhibits  a  multiplicity  of  projects,  which  the  writer  regards  with 
almost  every  possible  degree  of  approbation  and  shade  of  assent ;  from  the 
frontiers  of  serious  and  entire  belief,  through  gradations  of  descending 
plausibility,  where  the  lowest  are  scarcely  more  than  the  exercises  of 
ingenuity,  and  to  which  some  wild  paradoxes  are  appended,  either  as  a 
vehicle  or  as  an  easy  means  (if  necessary)  of  disavowing  the  serious 
intention  of  the  whole  of  the  Platonic  fiction." — Sir  James  Mackintosh 
{Life  of  More,  p.  61). 

Io8  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

youth  when  he  amused  himself  with  these  Epigrams,  and  no 
more  than  a  boy  when  he  wrote  many  of  them.  He  has  never 
left  his  native  Britain  but  once  or  twice,  when  he  was  an  envoy 
of  his  prince  in  Flanders."  * 

The  epigrams  appeared  with  the  title  of  "  Progymnasmata  " 
or  exercises,  because  several  of  them  were  efforts  of  skill  in 
translation  from  Greek  into  Latin.  These,  however,  make 
only  a  fourth  part  of  the  whole  collection, 

A  writer,  who  has  illustrated  More's  epigrams  in  a  very 
scholarly  and  interesting  book,  remarks  that  "  the  term  Epi- 
gramma,  as  used  in  the  time  of  Erasmus,  was  of  a  more  com- 
prehensive character  than  our  modern  word  Epigram.  Like 
the  Epigram,  it  was  a  fugitive  composition  springing  out  of  the 
more  salient  topics  of  every-day  life,  terse  in  diction,  and 
steady  in  its  pursuit  of  one  subject.  But  it  was  frequently  of 
greater  length  than  our  modern  Epigram.  Many  of  the  Epi- 
grammata  might  be  classed  under  the  modern  designation  of 
vers  de  societey  I  do  not  think  it  necessary  to  offer  any  criti- 
cism or  further  account  of  More's  verses.  Those  who  are 
interested  will  find  all  they  can  wish  in  the  FhiIojnorus.\ 

One  short  piece,  however,  may  be  here  mentioned,  as  being 
connected  with  some  pictures  painted  at  the  period  we  have 
been  reviewing,  and  which  are  still  said  to  exist. 

When  More  was  at  Calais  in  1517,  he  received  a  present 
which  caused  him  singular  pleasure.  His  two  friends,  Erasmus 
and  Peter  Giles  (Egidius),  had  their  portraits  painted  by  Quen- 
tin  Matsys  on  two  panels  united  as  a  diptych.  Erasmus  was 
represented  as  writing  the  first  lines  of  his  Paraphrase  on  the 
Epistle  of  St.  Paul  to  the  Romans.  Giles  was  holding  in  his 
hand  a  letter  to  which  More's  name  was  legibly  subscribed. 
Erasmus  sent  the  diptych  by  a  messenger  with  a  short  letter  : — 

"  I  send  you  these  portraits  that  we  may  be  in  some  way  pre- 

*  Epist.  Erasui.  167,  in  App. 

t  Philomorus.     Second  edition.     Longmans,  1878. 


sent  with  you,  even  if  by  chance  we  should  be  taken  away. 
Peter  pays  one-half  of  the  cost,  and  I  the  other.  Either  of  us 
would  gladly  have  paid  the  whole,  but  we  wished  the  gift  to  be 
from  both.  ...  I  am  sorry  you  are  shut  up  in  Calais.  If 
nothing  else  can  be  done,  write  frequently,  though  it  be  only  a 
few  words.  Farewell,  dearest  of  mortals.  From  Antwerp,  8th 
September,  15 17."* 

Giles,  while  the  portraits  were  being  painted,  had  been  very 
ill.  More  writes  to  him  on  6th  October  :  "  My  dearest  Peter, 
I  am  longing  to  hear  about  your  health  ;  no  matter  of  my  own 
gives  me  more  anxiety.  Some  give  me  good  hope,  either  well 
founded,  as  I  trust,  or  else  to  comfort  me.  I  have  written  a 
letter  to  Erasmus,  but  I  send  it  open  to  you ;  you  will  seal  it 
yourself.  There  is  no  need  to  close  against  you  whatever  I 
write  to  him.  I  have  written  for  you  a  few  verses  about  the 
picture,  though  they  are  as  unskilful  as  that  is  skilful.  If  you 
think  them  deserving  of  it,  send  them  to  Erasmus  ;  if  not, 
throw  them  in  the  fire."  t  The  Latin  verses  were  very  happy, 
both  in  matter  and  form.  In  his  letter  to  Erasmus,  More 
says :  "  You  cannot  believe,  my  Erasmus,  my  darling  Eras- 
mus, I  how  this  eagerness  of  yours  to  bind  me  still  more 
closely  to  you,  has  heightened  my  love  for  you,  though  I 
thought  nothing  could  be  added  to  it ;  and  how  triumphant  I 
am  in  the  glory  of  being  so  much  esteemed  by  you,  as  that 
you  should  make  it  known  by  a  monument  like  this,  that  there 
is  no  one  whose  love  you  prefer  to  mine.  It  may  be  a  proud 
thought,  but  most  certainly  I  esteem  your  gift  to  mean  that 
you  would  wish  the  memory  of  you  to  be  renewed  in  my  mind, 
not  daily  only,  but  every  hour.     You  know  me  so  well  that  I 

*  Episf.  Erasm.  ijg,  in  App.  Egidius  wrote  to  Erasmus  on  27th  Sep- 
tember :  "  Si  Morus  Caleti  est  jam  habet  spectacula  nostra"   {lb.,  193). 

t  lb.,  192. 

X  Erasmiotatos,  the  superlative  of  Erasmios,  which  had  been  incor- 
rectly turned  into  Erasmus.     It  means  "  beloved  ". 

no  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

need  not  labour  to  prove  to  you  that,  with  all  my  faults,  I  am 
no  great  boaster.  Yet,  to  tell  the  truth,  there  is  one  craving 
for  glory  I  cannot  shake  off,  and  it  is  wonderful  how  sweetly 
I  am  elated  when  the  thought  occurs  to  me  that  I  shall  be 
commended  to  the  most  distant  ages  by  the  friendship,  the 
letters,  the  books,  the  pictures  of  Erasmus.* 

In  another  letter  More  reverts  to  the  subject  with  one  of  his 
characteristic  jokes.  In  his  verses  he  had  likened  Erasmus 
and  Egidius  to  the  twin  brothers,  Castor  and  Pollux.  A  friar 
had  criticised  the  similitude.  Erasmus  and  Egidius,  he  said, 
were  friends,  not  brothers.  They  would,  therefore,  have  been 
more  aptly  compared  to  Pylades  and  Orestes,  or  to  Theseus 
and  Pirithous,  who  were  fast  friends,  though  not  brothers. 
This  criticism  drew  from  More  the  following  epigram  : — 

Duos  amicos  versibus  paucis  modo 

Magnos  volens  ostendere, 
Tantos  amicos  dixeram,  quanti  olim  erant 

Castorque  Polluxque  invicem. 
"  Fratres  amicis,"  ait,  "  inepte  comparas," 

Ineptiens  fraterculus. 
"  Quidni  ?  "   inquam  ;  "  an  alteri-esse  quisquam  amicior, 

"  Quam  frater  est  fratri,  potest  ?  " 
Irrisit  ille  inscitiam  tantam  meam, 

Qui  rem  tarn  apertam  nesciam. 
"  Est  ampla  nobis,"  inquit,  "  ac  frequens  domus, 

"  Plus  quam  ducentis  fratribus, 
"  Sex  ex  ducentis,  pereo,  si  reperis  duos 

"  Fratres  amicos  invicem."  f 

The  man  would  deserve  a  far  severer  epigram  who  should  take 

*  lb.,  193. 

t  Inter.  Epist.  Erasm.,   204,  in  App.      For  those  who  do   not  know 
Latin  I  may  state  the  substance  of  the  Hnes  in  the  text : — 
"  All  brothers  are  not  friends,  you  truly  say  ; 
For  friars  are  brothers,  yet  what  friends  are  they  ?  " 

LITERARY.  1 1 1 

these  verses  seriously,  as  if  More  thought  ill  of  the  friars,  or  as 
if  the  friars  would  not  have  laughed  heartily  at  the  epigram.* 

*  The  reader  will  be  interested  to  know  that  at  least  one  of  the  two 
portraits  is  still  in  existence.  According  to  Mr.  J.  G.  Nichols,  the  portrait 
of  Egidius  in  the  collection  of  Lord  Radnor,  at  Nostel  Priory,  which  was 
long  attributed  to  Holbein,  is  undoubtedly  the  work  of  Quentin  Matsys 
mentioned  in  these  letters.  It  has  been  detached  from  its  companion. 
Quentin's  companion  picture  of  Erasmus,  or,  according  to  Mr.  Nichols,  a 
copy  of  it,  is  in  Hampton  Court,  and  was  also  wrongly  attributed  to  Hol- 
bein (see  in  Archccologia,  vol.  xliv.  p.  435,  an  article  written  in  1873, 
thoroughly  discussing  the  subject).  There  exists  also  in  the  British 
Museum  the  small  illuminated  book  of  Latin  verses  by  More  presented 
to  Henry  VHL  soon  after  his  marriage.  The  red  rose  of  Lancaster  has 
an  interior  circle  of  white  petals,  in  allusion  to  the  white  rose  of  York  of 
Henry's  mother  (Cotton  MSS.  Titus  D.  iv.,  at  the  beginning). 



THE  Strange  fascination  exerted  by  More,  which  has  made 
even  the  foes  of  his  rehgion  speak  of  him  both  reverently 
and  affectionately,  is  probably  due  to  the  beautiful  details 
of  his  domestic  life  that  have  been  handed  down  to  us,  rather 
than  to  his  wit  or  literary  excellence.  Had  he  been  all  that  he 
was  in  life  and  death,  with  one  only  exception — an  ecclesiastic, 
instead  of  a  father  of  a  family — he  would  have  been  still  great, 
amiable,  and  holy,  but  Macaulay  would  probably  not  have 
selected  him  as  "a  choice  specimen  of  human  wisdom  and 
virtue,"  in  stating  his  paradoxes  about  transubstantiation.  Thus 
the  very  circumstances,  by  which  in  his  own  eyes  More  was 
placed  on  a  lower  level  than  his  unmarried  and  consecrated 
fellow-martyrs,  have  raised  him  to  a  higher  estimation  in  the 
minds  of  modern  Englishmen;  the  "worldly  wretch,"  as  he 
called  himself,  who  had  twice  gone  to  earthly  nuptials,  is 
preferred  to  the  "blessed  fathers"  of  the  Charterhouse,  whom 
More  admired  "going  like  bridegrooms  to  their  (heavenly) 
marriage  ".  Yet,  while  holding  with  the  Church  of  all  ages,  that 
it  is  a  more  blessed  state  to  remain  unmarried  for  the  kingdom 
of  heaven's  sake,  we  may  nevertheless,  and  for  that  very  reason, 
admire  all  the  more  a  married  man  and  a  father,  to  whom 
family  ties  were  no  impediment,  whose  heart  remained  undivided 
and  altogether  God's,  and  who  equalled  on  the  scaffold  both 
the  constancy  and  the  joy  of  his  venerable  fellow-sufferers ;  and 
we  may   thank  God   for  giving   to   us  in  both  states  of  life, 


examples,   variously  attractive  yet   equally  admirable,   of  the 
power  of  His  grace. 

Section  I.  The  Family. 

We  owe  to  Erasmus  more  than  one  beautiful  picture  of 
More's  domestic  life,  and  I  will  translate  his  words  without 
abridgment  or  interruption,  reserving  the  details  that  have 
come  to  us  from  other  sources  until  we  have  looked  carefully 
at  his  masterly  sketch.  The  letter  to  Ulrich  von  Hutten, 
which  has  been  frec^uently  quoted,  was  written  on  the  23rd 
July,  15 19.  At  that  time  More  had  been  eight  or  nine  years 
married  to  his  second  wife,  who  had  given  him  no  children,  but 
had  been  as  a  mother  to  his  four  children  by  his  first  wife.  He 
was  forty-one  years  old,  his  eldest  child  thirteen. 

A  few  months  after  the  death  of  Jane  Colt  he  had  married, 
against  the  advice  of  his  friends,  a  widow  named  Alice 
Middleton,  neither  young  nor  handsome — necbella  ?iecpuella,  as 
More  would  sometimes  say  laughingly  to  Erasmus;  "but  an 
active  and  vigilant  housewife,  with  whom,"  continues  his  friend, 
"  he  lives  as  pleasantly  and  sweetly  as  if  she  had  all  the  charms 
of  youth.  You  will  scarcely  find  a  husband  who,  by  authority 
or  severity,  has  gained  such  ready  compliance  as  More  by 
playful  flattery.  What,  indeed,  would  he  not  obtain,  when  he 
has  prevailed  on  a  woman  already  getting  old,  by  no  means  of 
a  pliable  disposition,  and  intent  on  domestic  affairs,  to  learn  to 
play  the  harp,  the  lute,  the  monochord,  and  the  flute  {cithara^ 
testudhie,  juoiwchordo^  tibiis)^  and  by  the  appointment  of  her 
husband  to  devote  to  this  task  a  fixed  time  every  day?  *  With 
the  same  address  he  guides  his  whole  household,  in  which  there 
are  no  disturbances  or  strife.  If  such  arise  he  immediately 
appeases  it  and  sets  all  right  again,  never  conceiving  enmity 

*  More's  friend  Pace  tells  us  that  More  played  duets   with  his  wife : 
Sicut  Morus  meus  didicit  pulsare  tibias  cum  conjuge  [Dc  Fructu,  etc., 

P-  35)- 


114  SIR   THOMAS    MORE. 

himself  nor  making  an  enemy.  Indeed,  there  seems  to  be  a 
kind  of  fateful  happiness  in  this  house,  so  that  no  one  has  lived 
in  it  without  rising  to  higher  fortune ;  no  member  of  it  has  ever 
incurred  any  stain  on  his  reputation.  You  will  scarcely  find 
any  who  live  in  such  harmony  with  a  mother  as  does  Thomas 
More  with  his  step-mother,  for  his  father  had  married  again,  and 
the  son  was  as  affectionate  towards  her  as  to  his  own  mother. 
Quite  recently  he  has  married  a  third  wife,  and  More  swears  he 
never  knew  a  better  woman.  Towards  his  x^arents  and  his 
children  and  his  sisters  his  love  is  never  intrusive  or  exacting, 
while  he  omits  nothing  that  can  show  his  sincere  attachment." 

Two  years  later,  towards  the  end  of  the  year  152 1,  Erasmus 
returns  to  the  same  subject  in  a  letter  to  Budee,  a  very  learned 
French  statesman,  and  a  married  man  like  More. 

"  If  More  had  the  means  he  would  be  a  great  Maecenas  of 
learning.  He  has  helped  the  learned  even  when  he  himself 
was  in  debt.  Nor  does  he  adorn  letters  merely  by  his  own 
learning  or  his  partiality  for  learned  men,  for  he  has  reared  his 
whole  family  in  excellent  studies — a  new  example,  but  one 
which  is  likely  to  be  much  imitated,  unless  I  am  mistaken,  so 
successful  has  it  been.  He  has  three  daughters,  of  whom  the 
eldest,  Margaret,  is  married  to  a  young  man  who  is  wealthy 
{beato)^  of  excellent  and  modest  character,  and  not  unacquainted 
with  literature.  More  has  been  careful  to  have  all  his  children, 
from  their  earliest  years,  thoroughly  imbued,  first  with  chaste 
and  holy  morals,  and  then  with  polite  letters.  He  has  taken 
into  his  family  another  girl,  and  adopted  her  as  companion  to 
his  daughters.  He  has  a  step-daughter  of  rare  beauty  and 
talent,  who  has  been  some  years  married  to  a  young  man  not 
unlearned,  and  of  a  most  amiable  character.  He  has  a  son  by 
his  first  wife,  the  youngest  of  his  children,  about  thirteen  years 

*  Here  the  memory  of  Erasmus  is  defective,  though  he  says  "plus 
minus".  Young  John  More  could  not  be  over  eleven  in  the  autumn  of 


"  A  year  ago  it  occurred  to  More  to  send  me  a  specimen  of 
their  progress  in  study.  He  bade  them  all  write  to  me,  each 
one  without  any  help,  neither  the  subject  being  suggested  nor 
the  language  corrected  ;  for  when  they  offered  their  papers  to 
their  father  for  correction,  he  affected  to  be  displeased  with  the 
bad  writing,  and  made  them  copy  out  their  letters  more  neatly 
and  accurately.  When  they  had  done  so,  he  closed  the  letters 
and  sent  them  to  me  without  changing  a  syllable.  Believe  me, 
dear  Budee,  I  never  was  more  surprised  ;  there  was  nothing 
whatever  either  silly  or  girlish  in  what  was  said,  and  the  style 
was  such  that  you  could  feel  they  were  making  daily  progress. 
This  amiable  circle,  with  the  two  husbands,*  all  live  in  his 
house.  In  that  house  you  will  find  no  one  idle,  no  one  busied 
in  feminine  trifles.  Titus  Livius  is  ever  in  their  hands.  They 
have  advanced  so  far  that  they  can  read  such  authors  and  under- 
stand them  without  a  translation,  unless  there  occurs  some  such 
word  as  would  perhaps  perplex  myself  His  wife,  who  excels  in 
good  sense  and  experience  rather  than  in  learning,  governs  the 
little  company  with  wonderful  tact,  assigning  to  each  a  task,  and 
requiring  its  performance,  allowing  no  one  to  be  idle  or  to  be 
occupied  in  trifles. 

"You  complain  occasionally  in  your  letters  to  me  that 
philology  t  has  got  a  bad  name  through  you,  since  it  has  both 
injured  your  health  and  made  you  poorer.  But  More  manages 
to  be  well  spoken  of  by  all  and  in  all  respects  ;  and  he  avers 
that  he  is  indebted  to  literature  both  for  better  health,  for  the 
favour  and  affection  he  meets  with  from  his  excellent  prince,  as 
well  as  from  his  own  countrymen  and  foreigners,  for  an  increase 
of  wealth,  for  becoming  more  agreeable  both  to  himself  and  his 
friends,  more  useful  to  his  country  and  his  relatives,  more 
fitted  for  the  life  at  court,  and  intercourse  with  nobles,  as  well 
as   for  all   society  and    social    life,    and    lastly,   more   dear   to 

*  Duobus  sponsis  ;  I  will  discuss  the  meaning  of  this  word  presently, 
t  Budee  was  a  scholar  and  antiquarian.      His  great  work,  Dc  Asse, 
had  already  been  published. 

Il6  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

heaven.  Formerly  learning  had  a  bad  name,  since  it  seemed 
to  deprive  its  votaries  of  common  sense.  Well,  no  journey,  no 
business,  however  prolonged  or  arduous,  makes  More  lay  aside 
his  books ;  yet  you  will  find  no  one  who  is  so  companionable 
a  man  at  all  times,  and  to  every  class,*  so  ready  to  render 
service,  so  affable,  so  lively  in  conversation,  or  who  knows  so 
well  how  to  unite  solid  prudence  with  sweetness  of  manners. 
Hence  it  has  come  to  pass  that,  whereas  a  short  time  since, 
love  of  literature  was  held  to  be  useless  either  for  practical  or 
ornamental  purposes,  now  there  is  scarcely  a  nobleman  who 
considers  his  children  worthy  of  his  ancestors  unless  they  are 
educated  in  good  letters.  Even  in  kings  a  great  part  of  their 
royal  splendour  is  seen  to  be  wanting  where  there  is  little 
acquaintance  with  literature."  t 

We  may  now  go  back  and  consider  the  various  personages 
mentioned  in  these  letters.  And  first  his  wife,  the  step-mother 
of  his  children.  Cresacre  More  writes :  "  I  have  heard  it  re- 
ported he  wooed  her  for  a  friend  of  his,  not  once  thinking  to 
have  her  himself,  but  she  wisely  answering  him  '  that  he  might 
speed  if  he  would  speak  in  his  own  behalf,'  teUing  his  friend 
what  she  had  said  unto  him,  with  his  good  liking  he  married 
her,  and  did  that  which  otherwise  he  would  never  have  thought 
to  have  done".  None  of  More's  contemporaries  mentions  this 
story,  and  though  I  cannot  disprove  it,  it  seems  to  me  to  have 
been  invented  to  match  the  second  courtship  with  the  first,  and 
to  explain  what  might  seem  a  somewhat  ill-assorted  marriage. 
Yet,  if  More  sought  the  benefit  of  his  children  rather  than  him- 
self, he  appears  to  have  made  an  excellent  choice,  and  so 
philosophical  was  his  mind  and  happy  his  disposition  that  he 
lived  with  her  as  pleasantly,  if  not  as  affectionately,  as  if  they 
had  been  drawn  together  by  similarity  of  tastes  and  character. 
She  was  seven  years  his  senior,  as  we  know  from  the  inscrip- 

*  Omnibus  omnium  horarum  homo, 
t  Epist.  605. 

DOMESTIC.  1 1  7 

tion  on  the  family  picture.  The  character  of  this  good  lady 
seems  to  me  to  have  been  most  gratuitously  blackened.  "Any 
heart  but  More's,"  writes  Mr.  Dibdin,  "  would  have  been 
broken  by  this  match,  for  Mrs.  Alice  Middleton  appears  to 
have  been  one  of  the  most  loquacious,  ignorant,  and  narrow- 
minded  of  women.  Like  another  Socrates,  More  endeavoured 
to  laugh  away  his  conjugal  miseries ;  always  replying  to  the 
sarcastic  remarks  of  his  wife  with  complacency  and  poignant 
good  humour.''*  Let  us  be  just.  There  is  nothing  in  the 
letters  of  Erasmus  or  More  to  authorise  such  a  censure  as  this. 
It  is  said  that  Erasmus  found  the  lady  rude  and  inhospitable. 
It  is  true  that  in  15 16  he  mentions  in  one  of  his  letters  that  he 
is  growing  weary  of  England,  and  finds  that  he  has  outstayed  his 
welcome  with  More's  wife.t  Yet  although  a  lady  should  make 
her  husband's  guest  and  dear  friend  feel  at  home,  let  it  be 
remembered  that  Erasmus  had  never  taken  the  trouble  to  learn 
a  word  of  English.  X  It  would  surely  be  a  trial  to  the  meekest 
or  most  genial  of  wives  to  hear  all  the  conversation  and  the 
laughter-moving  jokes  carried  on  daily,  for  weeks  together,  in  a 
language  of  which  she  could  not  understand  a  word. 

Perhaps  she  was  somewhat  worldly,  "  but  so,"  as  Sir  Thomas 
would  say  of  her,  "  that  she  was  often  penny-wise  and  pound- 
foolish,  saving  a  candle's  end  and  spoiling  a  velvet  gown  ".§ 
More,  however,  had  chosen  her  that  her  economical  habits 
might  counterbalance  his  own  rather  excessive  carelessness,  and 
we  do  not  find  that  she  complained  of  his  generous  alms.  We 
may  sometimes  know  a  person's  character  better  by  the  letters 
he  receives  than  by  those  he  writes,  since  the  former  indicate 

*  Biographical  Introduction  to  More's  Utopia. 

t  Ni  jam  me  taideret  Britanniae,  et  sentirem  me  vetulum  jamhospitem 
uxori  Moricae  suppetere  [Ep'ist.  133).  The  editor  has  dated  the  letter 
151 1.      From  the  allusions  in  it,  it  should  be  1516. 

:i:  Erasmus  confesses  his  entire  ignorance  of  English  in  Letter  165, 
written  after  he  had  spent  years  in  England. 

§  Cresacre's  Life. 

Il8  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

the  judgment  entertained  regarding  him.  Judged  by  this  rule 
Lady  More  must  have  been  a  Christian  and  generous-hearted 
woman,  to  whom  her  husband  could  write  the  following 
letter : — 

"  Mistress  Alice,  in  my  most  hearty  wise  I  recommend  me 
to  you.  And  whereas  I  am  informed  by  my  son  Heron  of  the 
loss  of  our  barns  and  our  neighbours'  also  [by  fire]  with  all  the 
corn  that  was  therein ;  albeit,  saving  God's  pleasure,  it  is 
great  pity  of  so  much  good  corn  lost,  yet  since  it  hath  liked 
Him  to  send  us  such  a  chance,  we  must  and  are  bounden,  not 
only  to  be  content,  but  also  to  be  glad  of  His  visitation.  He 
sent  us  all  that  we  have  lost,  and  since  He  hath  by  such  a  chance 
taken  it  away  again,  His  pleasure  be  fulfilled.  Let  us  never 
grieve  thereat,  but  take  it  in  good  worth  and  heartily  thank 
Him  as  well  for  adversity  as  for  prosperity.  And  peradventure 
we  have  more  cause  to  thank  Him  for  our  loss  than  for  our  win- 
ning. For  His  wisdom  better  seeth  what  is  good  for  us  than 
we  do  ourselves.  Therefore,  I  pray  you  be  of  good  cheer,  and 
take  all  the  household  with  you  to  Church,  and  there  thank 
God  both  for  that  He  hath  given  us,  and  for  that  He  hath 
taken  away  from  us,  and  for  that  He  hath  left  us,  which,  if  it 
please  Him,  He  can  increase  when  He  will.  And  if  it  please 
Him  to  leave  us  less  yet,  at  His  pleasure  be  it. 

*'  I  pray  you  to  make  some  good  ensearch  what  my  poor 
neighbours  have  lost,  and  bid  them  take  no  thought  therefor  ; 
for,  and  I  should  not  leave  myself  a  spoon,  there  shall  no 
poor  neighbour  of  mine  bear  no  loss  happened  by  any  chance 
in  my  house.  I  pray  you  be  with  my  children  and  your  house- 
hold merry  in  God.  And  devise  somewhat  with  your  friends 
what  way  were  best  to  take  for  provision  to  be  made  for  corn 
for  our  household,  and  for  seed  this  year  coming,  if  ye  think  it 
good  that  we  keep  the  ground  still  in  our  hands,  x^nd  whether 
ye  think  it  good  that  we  shall  do  so  or  not,  yet  I  think  it  were 
not  best  suddenly  thus  to  leave  it  all  up  and  to  put  away  our 
folk  off  our  farm,  till  we  have  somewhat  advised  us  thereon. 


Howbeit  if  we  have  more  now  than  ye  shall  need,  and  which 
can  get  them  other  masters,  ye  may  then  discharge  us  of  them. 
But  I  would  not  that  any  man  were  suddenly  sent  away  he  wot 
ne'er  whither. 

"At  my  coming  hither  I  perceived  none  other  but  that  I 
should  tarry  still  with  the  king's  grace.  But  now  I  shall  (I 
think)  because  of  this  chance,  get  leave  this  next  week  to  come 
home  and  see  you  ;  and  then  shall  we  further  devise  together 
upon  all  things  what  order  shall  be  best  to  take.  And  thus  as 
heartily  fare  you  well,  with  all  our  children,  as  ye  can  wish. 
At  Woodstock  the  third  day  of  September,  by  the  hand  of  your 
loving  husband,  Thomas  More,  Knight."  * 

If  this  letter  proves  that  Sir  Thomas  More  had  the  detach- 
ment, the  love  of  justice  and  care  of  inferiors  that  we  admire 
in  Job,  it  equally  proves  that  Lady  More  was  not  like  Job's 
wife,  but  like  the  "  valiant  woman "  of  whom  it  is  written  : 
"  The  heart  of  her  husband  trusteth  in  her  ". 

Again,  if  the  widow  of  Mr.  Middleton  had  occasionally  a 
sharp  tongue,  she  was  no  termagant.  In  a  letter  to  Erasmus 
of  15th  December,  1517,  More  writes:  "My  wife  desires  a 
million  of  compliments,  especially  for  your  careful  wish  that 
she  may  live  many  years.  She  says  she  is  the  more  anxious 
for  this  as  she  will  live  the  longer  to  plague  me."  t  This  kind 
of  playful  banter  does  not  belong  to  a  Xantippe.  Harpsfield 
writes  as  follows  :  "  This  wife  on  a  time  after  shrift  bade  Sir 
Thomas  More  be  merry,  '  for  I  have,'  saith  she,  '  this  day  left 
all  my  shrewdness,  and  to-morrow  I  will  begin  afresh,'  with 
merry-conceited  talk,  though  now  and  then  it  proved  very  true. 
Indeed,  Sir  Thomas  More  could  well  digest  and  like  it  in  her  and 

*  English  Works,  p.  1419.  The  editor  adds  that  the  fire  occurred 
through  the  neghgence  of  a  neighbour's  carter,  not  through  the  fault  of 
any  of  More's  servants,  which  makes  his  generosity  all  the  more  striking. 
The  letter  was  written  in  August,  1529,  just  after  his  return  from  his 
embassy  at  Cambrai.  A  few  months  later  he  was  made  chancellor, 
t  Inter  Epist.  Erasm.,  221,  in  App. 

I20  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Others ;  neither  was  he  in  her  debt  for  repaying  home  again 
oftentimes  such  kind  of  talk.  Among  other  things,  when  he 
divers  times  beheld  his  wife  what  pains  she  took  in  straight 
binding  up  her  hair  to  make  her  a  fair  large  forehead,  and  with 
strait  bracing  in  her  body  to  make  her  middle  small,  both  twain 
to  her  great  pain,  for  the  pride  of  a  little  foolish  praise,  he  said 
to  her  :  '  Forsooth,  madam,  if  God  give  you  not  hell  he  shall 
do  you  great  wrong,  for  it  must  needs  be  your  own  of  very 
right,  for  you  buy  it  very  dear,  and  take  very  great  pains 
therefor  '.* 

"  This  wife,  when  she  saw  that  Sir  Thomas  had  no  great  list 
greatly  to  get  upward  in  the  world,  neither  would  labour  for 
office  of  authority,  and  besides  that  he  forsook  a  right  worship- 
ful room  when  it  was  offered  him,  she  fell  in  hand  with  him 
and  asked  :  '  What  will  you  do  that  ye  list  not  to  put  forth 
yourself  as  other  folks  do  ?  Will  you  sit  still  by  the  fire,  and 
make  goslings  in  the  ashes  with  a  stick,  as  children  do  ? 
Would  God  I  were  a  man,  and  look  what  I  would  do.'  '  Why, 
wife,'  quoth  her  husband,  'what  would  you  do?'  'What?  by 
God,  go  forward  with  the  best.  For,  as  my  mother  was  wont 
to  say  (God  have  mercy  on  her  soul),  it  is  ever  better  to  rule 
than  to  be  ruled.  And,  therefore,  by  God,  I  would  not,  I 
warrant  you,  be  so  foolish  to  be  ruled  when  I  might  rule.' 
'  By  my  troth,  wife,'  quoth  her  husband,  '  in  this  I  daresay 
you  say  truths  for  I  never  found  you  willing  to  be  ruled 
as  yet."'t 

We  have  now  seen  all  the  evil  that  can  be  alleged  against 

*  This  saying  is  attributed  by  More  to  "  a  good  worshipful  man  ".  It 
is  by  no  means  certain  that  the  saying  was  his  own,  or  the  lady  his  wife 
{English  Works,  1205). 

t  This  last  paragraph  is  taken  by  Harpsfield  from  More's  dialogue, 
written  in  the  Tower,  called  "  Comfort  in  Tribulation  "  [English  Works, 
p.  1224),  where  the  lady  is  called  "a  stout  master-woman  ".  It  is  not 
said  to  be  More's  wife,  but  the  illusion  is  evident.  I  have  corrected 
Harpsfield  by  More  himself. 

DOMESTIC.  -  121 

this  lady,  and  it  certainly  does  not  justify  our  classing  Blessed 
More  amongst  the  ill-matched  great  men.  *  To  say  that 
when  his  time  of  suffering  came  she  did  not  rise  to  the  height 
of  his  soul,  is  merely  to  class  her  with  nearly  all  her  contem- 
poraries, including  almost  every  abbess,  abbot  and  bishop  in 
the  country. 

We  may  pass  now  to  the  other  members  of  More's  house- 
hold. Erasmus  mentions  two  sponsi.  The  word  is  ambiguous. 
It  may  mean  one  engaged  merely,  or  a  husband,  especially 
one  recently  married.  Here  it  must  stand  for  husbands. 
Erasmus  had  mentioned  that  More's  eldest  daughter  was 
recently  married.  Her  husband  was  William  Roper.  The 
second  sponsus  must  have  been  the  husband  of  Alice 
Middleton,  More's  step-daughter.  This  young  lady  had 
been  educated  with  great  care  in  More's  house.  She  married 
young,  and  I  do  not  find  the  name  of  her  husband.  After  his 
death,  and  during  More's  lifetime,  she  took  for  her  second 
husband,  Giles  (afterwards  Sir  Giles)  Alington.  t  She  will 
be  mentioned  at  the  time  of  More's  imprisonment  in  the 
Tower  as  interesting  herself  much  for  her  "  father ".  She 
appears  to  have  lived  on  very  affectionate  terms  with  the 
family.  It  is  not  recorded  at  what  period  she  and  her 
husband  ceased  to  be  inmates  of  More's  house. 

Of  William  Roper,  a  strange  story  is  related  by  Harpsfield, 
Stapleton  and  Cresacre  More.  As  Harpsfield's  narrative  was 
written  under  Roper's  own  eye,  and  dedicated  to  him,  I  will 
give  it  in  his  words  :     "  Mr.  William  Roper,  at  what  time  he 

*  I  cannot  claim  in  favour  of  Mistress  Alice  the  following  letter  of 
Ammonius,  because  though  the  Leyden  editor  has  dated  it  igth  May, 
1515,  the  year  should  be  1511,  and  it  refers  to  the  first  wife,  who  died 
shortly  after  it  was  written  :  Morns  nostcr  tncllitissitniis,  cum  sua  facil- 
lima  coujugc,  qiice  niinquam  tiii  mcm'uiit,  quin  tibi  bene  precctnr,  et 
liberis  ac  nniversa  fatnilia,  ptileherritne  valet  (Inter.  Epist.  Erasm.,  175). 

t  See  More's  English  Works,  p.  1435,  where  he  speaks  of  her 
present  and  her   late  husband. 

122  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

married  with  Mistress  Margaret  More,  was  a  marvellous, 
zealous  Protestant,  and  so  fervent  and  withal  so  well  and 
properly  liked  of  himself  and  his  divine  learning,  that  he  took 
the  bridle  into  the  teeth,  and  ran  forward  like  a  headstrong 
horse  hard  to  be  plucked  back  again.  Neither  was  he  con- 
tented to  whisper  it  in  hugger-mugger,  but  thirsted  very  sore 
to  publish  his  new  doctrine  and  divulge  it,  and  thought 
himself  very  able  so  to  do,  and  it  were  even  at  St.  Paul's 
Cross.  Yea,  for  the  burning  zeal  that  he  bare  to  the  further- 
ance of  Luther's  new  broached  religion,  and  for  the  pretty 
liking  of  himself,  he  longed  so  sore  to  be  pulpited,  that 
to  have  satisfied  his  mind  he  could  have  been  contented 
to  have  foregone  a  good  portion  of  his  lands.  .  .  .  This 
fall  into  heresy,  Mr.  Roper  (as  he  can  conjecture)  first  did 
grow  of  a  scruple  of  his  own  conscience,  for  lack  of  grace 
and  better  knowledge,  as  some  do  upon  other  occasions.  He 
daily  did  use  immoderate  fasting  and  many  prayers,  which, 
with  good  discretion  well-used,  had  not  been  to  be  misliked ;  but 
using  them  without  order  and  good  consideration,  thinking 
God  thereby  never  to  be  pleased,  did  weary  himself  usque  ad 
tcEdimn.  Then  did  he  understand  of  Luther's  works  brought 
into  this  realm,  and  as  Eve  of  a  curious  mind,  desirous  to 
know  both  good  and  evil,  so  did  he,  for  the  strangeness 
and  delectation  of  that  doctrine,  fall  into  great  desire  to 
read  his  works.  Amongst  other  his  works  he  read  a  book 
of  Luther's  De  Libertate  Christiana^  and  another  De  Captivitate 
Babylonica^  and  was  in  affection  so  with  them  bewitched, 
that  he  did  then  believe  every  matter  set  forth  by  Luther  to 
be  true. 

"And  with  these  books'  ignorance,  pride,  false  allegations, 
sophistical  reasons  and  arguments,  and  with  his  own  corrupt 
affections,  he  was  deceived,  and  fully  persuaded  that  faith  only 
did  justify  ;  that  the  works  of  man  did  nothing  profit ;  and  that, 
if  man  could  once  believe  that  our  Saviour,  Christ,  shed  His 
Precious  Blood  and  died  on  the  Cross  for  our  sins,  the  same 


only  belief  should  be  sufficient  for  our  salvation.  Then  thought 
he  that  all  the  ceremonies  and  sacraments  in  Christ's  Church 
were  very  vain  ;  and  was  at  length  so  far  waded  into  heresy, 
and  puffed  up  with  pride,  that  he  wished  that  he  might  be 
suffered  publicly  to  preach.  .  .  .  Who,  for  his  open  talk  and 
companying  with  divers  of  his  own  sect  of  the  Stillyard  and 
other  merchants,  was,  with  them,  before  Cardinal  Wolsey,  con- 
vented  of  heresy :  which  merchants,  for  their  opinions,  were 
openly,  for  heresy,  at  Paul's  Cross  abjured.  Yet  he,  for  love 
borne  by  the  cardinal  to  Sir  Thomas  More,  his  father-in-law, 
was,  with  a  friendly  warning,  discharged.  And  albeit  he  had 
married  the  eldest  daughter  of  Sir  Thomas  More,  whom  then 
of  all  the  world  he  did  during  that  time  most  abhor,  though  he 
was  a  man  of  most  mildness  and  notable  patience.  .  .  .  And 
these  lessons  he  did  so  well  like  as  he  soon  after  gave  over  his 
fasting,  prayer,  his  primer,  and  got  to  him  a  Lutheran  Bible,* 
wherein  upon  the  holy  days,  instead  of  his  prayers,  he  spent 
his  whole  time. 

"  And  so  after  continued  he  in  his  heresies  until  upon  a  time 
that  Sir  Thomas  More  privately  in  his  garden  talked  with  his 
daughter  Margaret,  and  said :  '  Meg,  I  have  borne  a  long  time 
with  thy  husband  ;  I  have  reasoned  and  argued  with  him  in 
these  points  of  religion,  and  still  given  to  him  my  poor  fatherly 
counsel,  but  I  perceivenoneof  all  this  able  to  call  him  home;  and 
therefore,  Meg,  I  will  no  longer  dispute  with  him,  but  will  clean 
give  him  over  and  get  me  to  God  and  pray  for  him  '.  And  soon 
after,  as  Roper  verily  believed,  through  the  great  mercy  of  Cxod, 
at  the  devout  prayers  of  Sir  Thomas  More,  he  perceived  his  own 
ignorance,  oversight,  malice  and  folly,  and  turned  him  again  to 
the  Catholic  faith,  wherein  (God  be  thanked)  he  hath  hitherto 

Notwithstanding  what  Harpsfield  and  others  tell  us  of  More's 
arguments  and  prayers  on  this  occasion,  some  have  concluded 

*  Luther  translated  the  New  Testament  into  German  in  152 1, 

124  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

that  More  could  not  at  that  period  have  been  a  very  staunch 
CathoKc,  when  he  allowed  his  daughter  to  marry  a  heretic.  It 
seems  to  me  to  be  pushing  too  far  Harpsfield's  expression  "  at 
what  time  he  married"  to  force  it  to  mean  ^'before  he  married". 
If  he  became  "a  Protestant"  (the  word  is  used  by  Harpsfield 
by  anticipation,  for  it  was  not  then  invented)  shortly  after  his 
marriage,  all  is  easily  explained.  The  books  of  Luther  that 
made  so  much  impression  on  him — The  Babylonian  Captivity 
and  Christian  Liberty — only  appeared  in  Germany  at  the  end 
of  1520.  When  Erasmus,  at  the  end  of  152 1,  wrote  his  eulogy 
of  Margaret's  husband,  the  news  had  not  reached  him  of  his  fall 
into  the  new  opinions  of  Luther.  It  is  likely  that  this  happened 
after  his  marriage,  either  in  1521  or  1522.  Besides  this:  as 
obstinate  Lutheranism  at  that  time  in  England  meant  death,  it 
is  impossible  that  Sir  Thomas  could  have  allowed  his  favourite 
daughter  to  marry  one  already  fallen  into  that  heresy.  Roper 
tells  us  that  he  resided  with  his  father-in-law  for  sixteen  years 
and  more.  If  this  is  correct,  he  must  have  been  taken  into  the 
family  at  the  beginning  of  15 19,  when  he  was  about  twenty-three 
years  old  and  Margaret  about  thirteen.  She  would  be  in  her 
sixteenth  year  when  she  married  him  in  152 1.*  Margaret 
Roper  will  frequently  appear  in  this  history.  I  pass  on  to  the 

Elizabeth,  a  year  younger  than  Margaret,  married  the  son  and 
heir  of  Sir  John  Daunsey  (or  Dancy).  Among  the  sketches  by 
Holbein  in  Her  Majesty's  collection  is  one  which  a  former 
keeper  has  supposed  to  represent  Lady  Barkley.  It  is  really  a 
portrait  of  Elizabeth  Dancy. 

Cecily,  the  third  daughter,  married  Mr.  Giles  Heron  of 
Shakelwell,  or  Spedwell  in  Hackney,  son  of  Sir  John  Heron. 
Sir  Thomas  More  received  from  the  king,  in  March,  1523,  a 

*  In  Utopia  it  is  said  :  "  Their  women  are  not  married  before  eighteen". 
We  do  not  know  why  Sir  Thomas  departed  from  this  rule.  He  probably 
thought  an  early  marriage  better  than  a  long  courtship. 


grant  of  the  wardship  of  this  young  gentleman.*  He  was 
foreman  of  the  jury  that  tried  Anne  Boleyn  ;  and  he  was 
martyred  at  Tyburn,  4th  August,  1540. 

John,  the  youngest  child  and  only  son  of  Sir  Thomas,  is  but 
little  known  to  us.  Dibdin  says  :  "  It  seems  that  More's  wife 
wished  very  much  for  a  boy;  at  last  she  brought  him  this  son, 
who  proved  to  be  but  of  slender  capacity,  upon  which  Sir  Thomas 
is  reported  to  have  said  to  his  wife  that  she  had  prayed  so  long 
for  a  boy  that  she  had  now  one  who  would  be  a  boy  as  long  as 
he  lived  ".f  If  Mr.  Dibdin  had  remarked  that  John's  mother 
died  before  he  was  a  year  old,  he  would  have  seen  that  More 
could  not  have  made  such  a  remark  to  her — at  least,  with  the 
sense  indicated.  Contemporary  writers,  on  the  contrary,  all 
speak  of  the  son  as  a  studious  youth  of  good  abihties.  Eras- 
mus dedicated  to  him  his  edition  of  Aristotle^  with  a  very  com- 
phmentary  letter,  and  Grynaeus  his  Plato  and  other  works. 
Cresacre  More  writes  :  "Sir  Thomas's  son,  my  grandfather, 
married  Anne  Cresacre,  sole  daughter  and  heir  of  Edward 
Cresacre  (deceased)  of  Baronborough,  in  the  county  of  York, 
esquire,  whom  Sir  Thomas  bought  of  the  king,  being  his  ward, 
upon  error  for  another  body's  land  lying  in  the  same  town,  as 
was  afterwards  proved  ". 

Margaret  Gigey,  or  Gigs,  appears  to  have  been  an  orphan 
girl  and  a  relative  of  the  family.  %  She  was  treated  in  every 
way  as  one  of  his  own  children.  She  became  singularly  learned, 
and  married  Dr.  Clements,  who  was  also  an  inmate  of  More's 

*  Letters  and  Papers,  iii.  2900;  iv.  314.  Such  grants  were  profitable, 
and  were  one  of  the  means  at  the  king's  disposal  of  rewarding  his  ser- 
vants or  his  favourites.  On  23rd  January,  1527,  More  received  the  custody 
of  John  Morton,  an  idiot  {Letters  and  Papers,  iv.  2758). 

t  Dibdin  quotes  Old  Biog.  Brit.  v.  3168. 

it  "  Cognata, "  in  the  family  picture.  In  the  Holbein  crayons  in  Her 
Majesty's  collection  is  a  portrait  of  Margaret  Gigs,  or  Clements.  It  is 
erroneously  inscribed  (not  by  Holbein)  "  Mother  Jak,"  by  which  name 
Mrs.  Jackson,  nurse  of  Edward  VI.,  was  known. 

126  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

house.  She  had  all  the  affection  of  a  daughter  towards  her 
benefactor,  and  loved  to  relate  to  Stapleton,  in  her  old  age, 
little  traits  of  More's  piety  and  other  virtues.  Amongst  other 
things  she  said  she  would  now  and  then  commit  some  slight 
fault  for  the  pleasure  of  drawing  down  on  herself  his  gentle  and 
sweet  correction.  Twice  only  throughout  his  life  did  she  see 
him  really  angry.*  The  husband  of  this  lady,  John  Clements, 
had  been  taken  into  More's  family  from  St.  Paul's  School, 
probably  at  the  recommendation  of  Dean  Colet,  its  founder. 
He  fulfilled  the  high  expectation  that  had  been  formed  of  his 
virtue  and  ability.  He  seems  to  have  acted  as  tutor  in  his 
patron's  family  while  he  pursued  his  own  Latin  and  Greek 
studies.  He  became  professor  of  Greek  at  Oxford,  t  but  for- 
sook his  chair  for  the  study  of  medicine.  He  suffered  exile 
for  the  faith,  both  under  Edward  VI.  and  Elizabeth.  :J: 

Another  inmate  w\as  John  Harris,  who  acted  partly  as  More's 
secretary,  partly  as  tutor.  He  also  is  said  to  have  been  learned 
in  Greek  and  Latin.  He  married  Dorothy  Colley,  who  was 
lady's  maid  to  Mrs.  Roper,  and  altogether  worthy  of  such  a 

Nor  must  Henry  Patenson,  the  "fool,"  be  forgotten  in  the 
account  of  More's  household,  since  More  himself  has  rendered 
him  famous,  both  by  introducing  him  into  the  family  picture 
and  by  several  stories  about  him  in  his  various  works.  In  the 
entertainment  of  a  domestic  fool,  More  not  only  conformed  to 
a  fashion,  but  followed  his  own  judgment,  for  he  thus  writes  of 
the  Utopians :  "  They  have   singular  delight  and  pleasure  in 

*  Stapleton,  Vita,  cap.  g. 

t  More  writes  of  him  in  the  highest  possible  terms  (see  Stapleton,  cap. 

Ij:  "John  Clement  and  his  wife  Margaret,"  writes  Sander,  "had  one  son, 
named  Thomas,  and  four  daughters,  all  Greek  and  Latin  scholars,  of 
whom  Dorothy  is  a  Poor  Clare  at  Louvain,  and  Margaret,  at  St.  Ursula's 
Convent  there,  though  a  young  nun  and  an  Englishwoman  among  Flem- 
ings, is  superioress  over  eighty  sisters  by  their  pre-election  "  {De  Vis. 


Fools.  And  as  it  is  a  great  reproach  to  do  any  of  them  hurt  or 
injury,  so  they  prohibit  not  to  take  pleasure  of  fooHshness,  for 
that,  they  think,  doth  much  good  to  the  fools.  And  if  any  man 
be  so  sad  and  stern  that  he  cannot  laugh,  neither  at  their  words 
nor  at  their  deeds,  none  of  them  be  committed  to  his  tuition, 
for  fear  lest  he  would  not  intreat  them  gently  and  favourably 
enough ;  to  whom  they  should  bring  no  delectation  (for  other 
goodness  in  them  is  there  none),  much  less  any  profit  should 
they  yield  him."* 

However,  when  More  became  chancellor,  he  dispensed  with 
his  jester  and  gave  him  to  Sir  John  More,  his  father,  f  At  his 
father's  death  Sir  Thomas  gave  him  to  the  Lord  Mayor,  on 
condition  that  he  should  also  serve  his  successors  during  their 
time  of  office.  % 

Section  II.  Education. 

We  may  turn  now  to  Mora's  method  of  educating  his  children. 
We  have  a  very  full  exposition  both  of  his  principles  and 
practice  in  a  Latin  letter  written  to  William  Gunnell,  a  learned 
ecclesiastic  of  Cambridge,  w^ho  held  for  a  time  the  office  of 
tutor  in  his  family.  The  letter  bears  no  date  of  year.  "  I  have 
received,  my  dear  Gunnell,  your  letter,  elegant,  as  your  letters 
always  are,  and  full  of  affection.  From  your  letter  I  perceive 
your  devotion  to  my  children  ;  I  argue  their  diligence  from 
their  own.  Every  one  of  their  letters  pleased  me,  but  I  was 
particularly  pleased  because   I   notice  that  Elizabeth  shows  a 

*  Robinson's  translation. 

t  Stapleton  Vita,  cap.  9. 

:J:  Lord  Herbert,  Life  of  Henry  VIII.  He  was  of  course  a  "servus"  or 
bondsman,  as  he  is  marked  on  the  family  picture.  More  tells  us  of 
another  fool  or  madman,  named  Cliff,  who  lived  for  many  years  in  his 
house,  and  got  into  some  trouble  for  breaking  off  the  head  of  the  Infant 
Jesus  in  the  arms  of  Our  Lady,  on  London  Bridge ;  "  for,"  says  Sir  Thomas, 
"  he  got  the  same  kind  of  notions  into  his  head  in  his  madness,  that  the 
Lutherans  have  in  their  sadness  "  {English  Works,  p.  935). 

128  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

gentleness  and  self-command  in  the  absence  of  her  mother,  * 
which  some  children  would  not  show  in  her  presence.  Let  her 
understand  tiat  such  conduct  delights  me  more  than  all  possible 
letters  I  coulJ  receive  from  anyone.  Though  I  prefer  learning 
joined  with  vii 'ue,  to  all  the  treasures  of  kings,  yet  renown  for 
learning,  when  '.t.  is  not  united  with  a  good  life  is  nothing  else 
than  splendid  ajid  notorious  infamy  :  this  would  be  specially  the 
case  in  a  woman.  Since  erudition  in  women  is  a  new  thing  and 
a  reproach  to  the  sloth  of  men,  many  will  gladly  assail  it,  and 
impute  to  literature  what  is  really  the  fault  of  nature,  thinking 
from  the  vices  of  the  learned  to  get  their  own  ignorance  virtue.  On  the  other  hand,  if  a  woman  (and  this 
I  desire  and  hope  with  you  as  their  teacher  for  all  my  daughters) 
to  eminent  virtue  shbuld  add  an  outwork  of  even  moderate 
skill  in  literature,  I  think  she  will  have  more  real  profit  than  if 
she  had  obtained  the- riches  of  Croesus  and  the  beauty  of  Helen> 
I  do  not  say  this  because  of  the  glory  which  will  be  hers,  though 
glory  follows  virtue  as  a  shadow  follows  a  body,  but  because  the 
reward  of  wisdom  is  too  solid  to  be  lost  like  riches  or  to  decay 
like  beauty,  since  it  depends  on  the  intimate  conscience  of  what 
is  right,  not  on  the  talk  of  men,  than  which  nothing  is  more 
foolish  or  mischievous. 

''  It  belongs  to  a  good  man,  no  doubt,  to  avoid  infamy,  but 
to  lay  himself  out  for  renown  is  the  conduct  of  a  man  who  is 
not  only  proud,  but  ridiculous  and  miserable.  A  soul  must  be 
without  peace  which  is  ever  fluctuating  between  elation  and  dis- 
appointment from  the  opinions  of  men.  Among  all  the  bene- 
fits that  learning  bestows  on  men,  there  is  none  more  excellent 
than  this,  that  by  the  study  of  books  we  are  taught  in  that  very 
study  to  seek  not  praise,  but  utility.     Such  has  been  the  teach- 

*  The  edition  of  Stapleton  of  i68g  has patrc,  that  of  1588  matre.  I  have 
translated  all  the  letters  myself,  instead  of  giving  Cresacre's  translation, 
lest  the  old  English  should  make  the  reader  think  he  has  More's  own 
words  ;  and  because  I  find  that  Cresacre's  translation,  with  all  its  charms^ 
is  not  always  correct. 


ing  of  the  most  learned  men,  especially  of  philosophers,  who 
are  the  guides  of  human  life,  although  some  may  have  abused 
learning,  like  other  good  things,  simply  to  court  empty  glory 
and  popular  renown. 

"  I  have  dwelt  so  much  on  this  matter,  my  dear  Gunnell, 
because  of  what  you  say  in  your  letter,  that  Margaret's  lofty 
character  should  not  be  abased.  In  this  judgment  I  quite 
agree  with  you  ;  but  to  me,  and,  no  doubt,  to  you  also,  that 
man  would  seem  to  abase  a  generous  character  who  should 
accustom  it  to  admire  what  is  vain  and  low.  He,  on  the  con- 
trary, raises  the  character  who  rises  to  virtue  and  true  goods, 
and  who  looks  down  with  contempt  from  the  contemplation  of 
what  is  sublime,  on  those  shadows  of  good  things  which  almost 
all  mortals,*  through  ignorance  of  truth,  greedily  snatch  at  as 
if  they  were  true  goods. 

"  Therefore,  my  dear  Gunnell,  since  we  must  walk  by  this 
road,  I  have  often  begged  not  you  only,  who,  out  of  your  affec- 
tion for  my  children,  would  do  it  of  your  own  accord,  nor  my 
wife,  who  is  sufificiendy  urged  by  her  maternal  love  for  them, 
which  has  been  proved  to  me  in  so  many  ways,  but  all  my 
friends,  to  warn  my  children  to  avoid  the  precipices  of  pride 
and  haughtiness,  and  to  walk  in  the  pleasant  meadows  of 
modesty  ;  not  to  be  dazzled  at  the  sight  of  gold  ;  not  to  lament 
that  they  do  not  possess  what  they  erroneously  admire  in 
others  ;  not  to  think  more  of  themselves  for  gaudy  trappings, 
nor  less  for  the  want  of  them  ;  neither  to  deform  the  beauty 
that  nature  has  given  them  by  neglect,  nor  to  try  to  heighten 
it  by  artifice  ;  to  put  virtue  in  the  first  place,  learning  in  the 
second  ;  and  in  their  studies  to  esteem  most  whatever  may 
teach  them  piety  towards  God,  charity  to  all,  and  modesty  and 
Christian  humility  in  themselves.      By  such  means  they  will 

*  Monialcs  (nuns)  is  in  the  edition  of  Frankfort,  1689.  There  is 
nothing  in  the  context  to  justify  any  allusion  to  nuns.  It  is  clear  that 
the  word  was  mortalcs,  as  in  edition  1588. 


130  SIR    THOMAS    IMORE. 

receive  from  God  the  reward  of  an  innocent  life,  and  in  the 
assured  expectation  of  it,  will  view  death  without  horror,  and 
meanwhile  possessing  solid  joy,  will  neither  be  puffed  up  by 
the  empty  praise  of  men,  nor  dejected  by  evil  tongues.  These 
I  consider  the  genuine  fruits  of  learning,  and,  though  I  admit 
that  all  literary  men  do  not  possess  them,  I  would  maintain 
that  those  who  give  themselves  to  study  with  such  views,  will 
easily  attain  their  end  and  become  perfect. 

"  Nor  do   I   think  that  the  harvest  will  be  much  affected 

whether  it  is  a  man  or  a  woman  who  sows  the  field.     They 

both  have  the  same  human  nature,  which  reason  differentiates 

from   that   of  beasts ;   both,   therefore,   are   equally  suited   for 

those   studies  by  which  reason  is  perfectioned,  and  becomes 

fruitful  like  a  ploughed  land  on  which  the  seed  of  good  lessons 

has  been  sown.     If  it  be  true  that  the  soil  of  woman's  brain  be 

bad,  and  apter  to  bear  bracken  than  corn,  by  which  saying 

many  keep  women  from  study,  I  think,  on  the  contrary,  that  a 

woman's  wit  is  on  that  account  all  the  more  diligently  to  be 

cultivated,  that  nature's  defect  may  be  redressed  by  industry. 

This  was  the  opinion  of  the  ancients,  of  those  who  were  most 

prudent  as  well  as  most  holy.     Not  to  speak  of  the  rest,  St. 

Jerome  and  St.  Augustine  not  only  exhorted  excellent  matrons 

and  most  noble  virgins  to  study,  but  also,  in  order  to  assist 

them,    diligently    explained    the    abstruse    meanings    of   Holy 

Scripture,   and  wrote  for  tender  girls  letters   replete  with   so 

much  erudition,  that  now-a-days  old  men,  who  call  themselves 

professors  of  sacred  science,  can  scarcely  read  them  correctly, 

much  less  understand  them.      Do  you,  my  learned  Gunnell, 

have  the  kindness  to  see  that  my  daughters  thoroughly  learn 

these  works  of  those  holy  men.   .  .  . 

"  I  fancy  I  hear  you  object  that  these  precepts,  though  true, 
are  beyond  the  capacity  of  my  young  children,  since  you  will 
scarcely  find  a  man,  however  old  and  advanced,  whose  mind  is 
so  firmly  set  as  not  to  be  tickled  sometimes  with  desire  of 
glory.     But,   dear  Gunnell,  the  more   I   see   the   difficulty  of 


getting  rid  of  this  pest  of  pride,  the  more  do  I  see  the  necessity 
of  setting  to  work  at  it  from  childhood.  For  I  find  no  other 
reason  why  this  evil  clings  so  to  our  hearts,  than  because 
almost  as  soon  as  we  are  born,  it  is  sown  in  the  tender  minds 
of  children  by  their  nurses,  it  is  cultivated  by  their  teachers, 
and  brought  to  its  full  growth  by  their  parents  ;  no  one  teach- 
ing even  what  is  good  without,  at  the  same  time,  awakening 
the  expectation  of  praise,  as  of  the  proper  reward  of  virtue. 
Thus  we  grow  accustomed  to  make  so  much  of  praise,  that 
while  we  study  how  to  please  the  greater  number  (who  will 
always  be  the  worst),  we  grow  ashamed  of  being  good  (with  the 
few).  That  this  plague  of  vainglory  may  be  banished  far  from 
my  children,  I  do  desire  that  you,  my  dear  Gunnell,  and  their 
mother  and  all  their  friends,  would  sing  this  song  to  them,  and 
repeat  it,  and  beat  it  into  their  heads,  that  vainglory  is  a  thing 
despicable,  and  to  be  spit  upon  ;  and  that  there  is  nothing 
more  sublime  than  that  humble  modesty  so  often  praised  by 
Christ  ;  and  this  your  prudent  charity  will  so  enforce  as  to 
teach  virtue  rather  than  reprove  vice,  and  make  them  love 
good  advice  instead  of  hating  it.  To  this  purpose  nothing 
will  more  conduce  than  to  read  to  them  the  lessons  of  the 
ancient  Fathers,  who,  they  know,  cannot  be  angry  with  them, 
and,  as  they  honour  them  for  their  sanctity,  they  must  needs  be 
much  moved  by  their  authority.  If  you  will  teach  something 
of  this  sort,  in  addition  to  their  lesson  in  Sallust — to  Margaret 
and  Elizabeth,  as  being  more  advanced  than  John  and  Cecily 
— you  will  bind  me  and  them  still  more  to  you.  And  thus 
you  wnll  bring  about  that  my  children,  who  are  dear  to  me  by 
nature,  and  still  more  dear  by  learning  and  virtue,  will  become 
most  dear  by  that  advance  in  knowledge  and  good  conduct. 
Adieu.     From  the  Court  on  the  vigil  of  Pentecost." 

It  will  be  seen  from  this  and  his  other  letters  that  while  More 
taught  his  children  to  hate  vainglory  and  not  to  consider  praise 
as  the  end  for  which  knowledge  or  virtue  should  be  cultivated, 
he  was  far  from  condemning  in  a  child  the  desire  of  a  virtuous 

132  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

father's  approbation,  and  he  bestowed  it  most  liberally.  More 
will  ever  stand  foremost  in  the  rank  of  the  defenders  of  female 
culture ;  but  his  example  would  be  perhaps  rashly  quoted  in 
proof  that  the  education  of  women  should  be  in  all  respects 
the  same  as  that  of  men,  or  that  familiarity  with  the  ancient 
classic  writers  is  essential  to  all  true  culture,  for  the  field  of  both 
science  and  literature  was  so  restricted  in  his  days,  that  the 
woman  who  was  not  trained  to  read  Plato  and  Sophocles,  or  at 
least  Livy  and  Sallust,  was  limited  to  her  needlework  and  her 
viol,  or  to  Chaucer  and  Boccacio  and  the  "  Romaunt  de  la 
Rose  " — works  certainly  less  conducive  to  purity  of  life  than  the 
masterpieces  of  the  old  heathen  world. 

It  is  not  likely  that  the  above  letter  was  intended  merely  for 
Gunnell.  It  would  be  copied  out  by  the  children,  translated, 
and  perhaps  learned  by  heart,  and  would  be  the  subject  of  their 
Latin  letters  to  their  father.  For  More  never  ceased  to  superin- 
tend the  education  of  each  one  of  them.  His  letters  to  his 
children  were  preserved  as  precious  treasures  in  the  family,  and 
several  of  them  have  come  down  to  us  by  the  care  of  Stapleton. 

I  would  not  willingly  either  omit  or  abridge  these  letters,  which 
are  among  his  most  venerated  relics. 

"Thomas  More  to  his  whole  school, — 

"  See  what  a  compendious  salutation  I  have  found,  to  save 
both  time  and  paper,  which  would  otherwise  have  been  wasted 
in  reciting  the  names  of  each  one  of  you,  and  my  labour  would 
have  been  to  no  purpose,  since,  though  each  of  you  is  dear  to 
me  by  some  special  title,  of  which  I  could  have  omitted  none  in 
a  set  and  formal  salutation,  no  one  is  dearer  to  me  by  any  title 
than  each  one  of  you  by  that  of  scholar.  Your  zeal  for  know- 
ledge binds  me  to  you  almost  more  closely  than  the  ties  of 
blood.  I  rejoice  that  Mr.  Drew  has  returned  safe,  for  I  was 
anxious,  as  you  know,  about  him.  If  I  did  not  love  you  so 
much  I  should  be  really  envious  of  your  happiness  in  having  so 
many  and  such  excellent  tutors.  But  I  think  you  have  no 
longer  any  needj^of  Mr.  Nicholas,  since  you  have  learnt  what- 


ever  he  had  to  teach  you  about  astronomy.  I  hear  you  are  so 
far  advanced  in  that  science  that  you  can  not  only  point  out 
the  polar-star  or  the  dog-star,  or  any  of  the  constellations, 
but  are  able  also — which  requires  a  skilful  and  profound 
astrologer — among  all  those  leading  heavenly  bodies,  to  dis- 
tinguish the  sun  from  the  moon  !  Go  forward,  then,  in  that 
new  and  admirable  science  by  which  you  ascend  to  the  stars. 
But  while  you  gaze  on  them  assiduously,  consider  that  this  holy 
time  of  Lent  warns  you,  and  that  beautiful  and  holy  poem  of 
Boetius  keeps  singing  in  your  ears,  to  raise  your  mind  also  to 
heaven,  lest  the  soul  look  downwards  to  the  earth,  after  the 
manner  of  brutes,  while  the  body  looks  upwards.  Farewell,  my 
dearest.     From  Court,  the  23rd  March." 

Another  letter  is  on  the  subject  of  letter-writing.  Stapleton 
says  that  the  original,  from  which  he  printed,  was  almost  worn 
to  pieces,  so  frequently  had  it  been  read. 

"Thomas  More  to  his  dearest  children,  and  to  Margaret 
Giggs,  whom  he  numbers  amongst  his  own, — 

"  The  Bristol  merchant  brought  me  your  letters  the  day  after 
he  left  you,  with  which  I  was  extremely  delighted.  Nothing 
can  come  from  your  workshop,  however  rude  or  unfinished,  that 
will  not  give  me  more  pleasure  than  the  most  accurate  thing 
that  another  can  write.  So  much  does  my  affection  for  you 
recommend  whatever  you  write  to  me.  Indeed,  without  any 
recommendation,  your  letters  are  capable  of  pleasing  by  their 
own  merits,  their  wit  and  pure  Latinity.  There  was  not  one 
of  your  letters  that  did  not  please  me  extremely ;  but,  to  con- 
fess ingenuously  what  I  feel,  the  letter  of  my  son  John  pleased 
me  best,  both  because  it  was  longer  than  the  others,  and  be- 
cause he  seems  to  have  given  to  it  more  labour  and  study. 
For  he  not  only  put  out  his  matter  prettily  and  composed  in 
fairly  polished  language,  but  he  plays  with  me  both  pleasantly 
and  cleverly,  and  turns  my  jokes  on  myself  wittily  enough. 
And  this  he  does  not  only  merrily,  but  with  due  moderation, 
showing  that  he  does   not  forget   that   he  is   joking  with   his 

134  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

father,  and  that  he  is  cautious  not  to  give  offence  at  the  same 
time  that  he  is  eager  to  give  dehght. 

"  Now  I  expect  from  each  of  you  a  letter  ahiiost  every  day.  I 
will  not  admit  such  excuses  as  John  is  wont  to  make,  want  of 
time,  sudden  departure  of  the  letter-carrier,  or,  want  of  some- 
thing to  write  about.  No  one  hinders  you  from  writing,  but, 
on  the  contrary,  all  are  urging  you  to  do  it.  And  that  you  may 
not  keep  the  letter-carrier  waiting,  why  not  anticipate  his  com- 
ing, and  have  your  letters  written  and  sealed,  ready  for  anyone 
to  take?  How  can  a  subject  be  wanting  when  you  write  to 
me,  since  I  am  glad  to  hear  of  your  studies  or  of  your  games, 
and  you  will  please  me  most  if,  when  there  is  nothing  to  write 
about,  you  write  about  that  nothing  at  great  length.  Nothing 
can  be  easier  for  you,  since  you  are  girls,  loquacious  by  nature, 
who  have  always  a  world  to  say  about  nothing  at  all.  One 
thing,  however,  I  admonish  you,  whether  you  write  serious 
matters  or  the  merest  trifles,  it  is  my  wish  that  you  write  every- 
thing diligently  and  thoughtfully.  It  will  be  no  harm,  if  you 
first  write  the  whole  in  English,  for  then  you  will  have  much 
less  trouble  in  turning  it  into  Latin  ;  not  having  to  look  for  the 
matter,  your  mind  will  be  intent  only  on  the  language.  That, 
however,  I  leave  to  your  own  choice,  whereas  I  strictly  enjoin 
that  whatever  you  have  composed  you  carefully  examine  before 
writing  it  out  clean  ;  and  in  this  examination,  first  scrutinise 
the  whole  sentence  and  then  every  part  of  it.  Thus,  if  any 
solecisms  have  escaped  you,  you  will  easily  detect  them. 
Correct  these,  write  out  the  whole  letter  again,  and  even  then 
examine  it  once  more,  for  sometimes,  in  rewriting,  faults  slip 
in  again  that  one  had  expunged.  By  this  diligence  your  little 
trifles  will  become  serious  matters  ;  for  while  there  is  nothing 
so  neat  and  witty  that  will  not  be  made  insipid  by  silly  and 
inconsiderate  loquacity,  so  also  there  is  nothing  in  itself  so 
insipid,  that  you  cannot  season  with  grace  and  wit  if  you  give 
a  little  thought  to  i:.  Farewell,  my  dear  children.  From  the 
Court,  the  3rd  September." 


In  one  of  his  letters  to  his  eldest  daughter  he  writes  :  "  I 
beg  you,  Margaret,  tell  me  about  the  progress  you  are  al 
making  in  your  studies.  For  I  assure  you  that,  rather  than 
allow  my  children  to  be  idle  and  slothful,  I  would  make  a 
sacrifice  of  wealth,  and  bid  adieu  to  other  cares  and  business, 
to  attend  to  my  children  and  my  family,  amongst  whom  none 
is  more  dear  to  me  than  yourself,  my  beloved  daughter." 

A\'e  have  seen  that,  when  More  was  a  boy,  his  father  stinted 
him  in  money,  and  that  he  used  to  speak  gratefully  of  this  wise 
severity  when  he  grew  up.  If  filial  love  made  him  thus  speak, 
his  paternal  love  expressed  itself  differently  :  "  You  ask,  my 
dear  Margaret,  for  money  with  too  much  bashfulness  and 
timidity,  since  you  are  asking  from  a  father  w^ho  is  eager  to 
give,  and  since  you  have  written  to  me  a  letter  such  that  I 
would  not  only  repay  each  line  of  it  with  a  golden  philippine, 
as  Alexander  did  the  verses  of  Cherilos,  but,  if  my  means  were 
as  great  as  my  desire,  I  would  reward  each  syllable  with  two 
gold  ounces.  As  it  is,  I  send  only  what  you  have  asked,  but 
would  have  added  more,  only  that  as  I  am  eager  to  give,  so  am 
I  desirous  to  be  asked  and  coaxed  by  my  daughter,  especially 
by  you,  whom  virtue  and  learning  have  made  so  dear  to  my 
soul.  So  the  sooner  you  spend  this  money  well,  as  you  are 
wont  to  do,  and  the  sooner  you  ask  for  more,  the  more  you 
will  be  sure  of  pleasing  your  father." 

Among  the  few  pieces  added  to  the  second  edition  of  More's 
Epigrams  in  1520  is  an  epistle  in  Latin  elegiac  verse  to  his 
children.  It  was  composed  on  horseback,  in  the  rain,  while 
his  beast  was  stumbling  in  the  deep  ruts  or  wading  through  a 
ford.  It  must  be  taken  then,  says  the  writer,  as  a  proof  of  the 
affection  that  will  not  allow  him  to  forget  his  children  even 
amid  such  miseries  to  himself.  He  reminds  them  how,  on 
returning  from  his  journeys,  he  has  ever  brought  back  some 
cakes  or  fruit,  or  piece  of  silk  to  deck  them  ;  how  he  has 
always  given  them  plenty  of  kisses  and  but  very  few  strokes  of 
the  rod,  the  rod  itself  being  only  a  bundle  of  peacock's  feathers. 

136  SIR    THOxMAS    MORE. 

Though  he  has  by  nature  a  tender  and  loving  heart  towards  his 
children,  their  progress  in  virtue  and  learning  has  made  it  far 
more  loving,  and  he  begs  them  to  go  on  in  the  same  way  until 
even  his  present  love  may  seem  nothing  by  comparison  with 
what  he  will  then  feel. 

Efficitote  (potestis  enim)  virtutibus  isdem 
Ut  posthac  videar  vos  nee  amare  modo. 

Stapleton  has  preserved  several  letters  written  by  More  to  his 
favourite  daughter,  Margaret,  most  like  to  himself  (says  his  bio- 
grapher) in  stature,  face,  voice,  talent  and  general  character. 
He  had  also  several  pieces  of  her  composition,  both  in  prose 
and  verse,  which  he  feared  to  print,  as  not  bearing  directly  on 
hg-  father's  life.  For  the  same  reason  I  pass  by  some  of  the 
letters,  and  conclude  this  account  of  ]\Iore's  education  of  his 
children  by  one  which  show^s  that  even  marriage  was  con- 
sidered no  obstacle  to  the  pursuit  of  knowledge  and  the  study 
of  literature  : — 

"  Thomas  More  to  his  most  dear  daughter  Margaret, — 

"  There  was  no  reason,  my  most  sweet  child,  why  you  should 
have  put  off  writing  for  a  day,  because  in  your  great  self-distrust 
you  feared  lest  your  letter  should  be  such  that  I  could  not  read 
it  without  distaste.  Even  had  it  not  been  perfect,  yet  the 
honour  of  your  sex  would  have  gained  you  pardon  from  any, 
while  to  a  father  even  a  blemish  will  seem  beautiful  in  the  face 
of  a  child.  But,  indeed,  my  dear  Margaret,  your  letter  was  so 
elegant  and  polished  and  gave  so  little  cause  for  you  to  dread 
the  judgment  of  an  indulgent  parent,  that  you  might  have 
despised  the  censorship  even  of  an  angry  Momus. 

"  You  tell  me  that  Nicholas,  who  is  so  fond  of  you,  and  so 
learned  in  astronomy,  has  begun  again  with  you  the  system  of 
the  heavenly  bodies.  I  am  grateful  to  him  and  I  congratulate 
you  in  your  good  fortune ;  for  in  the  space  of  one  month,  with 
only  a  slight  labour,  you  will  thus  learn  thoroughly  these  sub- 
lime wonders  of  the  Eternal  Workman,  which  so  many  men  of 


illustrious  and  almost  superhuman  intellect  have  only  discovered 
with  hot  toil  and  study,  or  rather  with  cold  shiverings  and 
nightly  vigils  in  the  open  air  in  the  course  of  many  ages. 

"  I  am,  therefore,  delighted  to  read  that  you  have  made  up 
your  mind  to  give  yourself  diligently  to  philosophy,  and  to 
make  up  by  your  earnestness  in  future  for  what  you  have  lost 
in  the  past  by  neglect.  My  darling  Margaret,  I  indeed  have 
never  found  you  idling,  and  your  unusual  learning  in  almost 
every  kind  of  literature  shows  that  you  have  been  making  active 
progress.  So  I  take  your  words  as  an  example  of  the  great 
modesty  that  makes  you  prefer  to  accuse  yourself  falsely  of 
sloth,  rather  than  to  boast  of  your  diligence  ;  unless  your  mean- 
ing is  that  you  will  give  yourself  so  earnestly  to  study,  that  your 
past  industry  will  seem  like  indolence  by  comparison.  If  this 
is  your  meaning  nothing  could  be  more  delightful  to  me,  or 
more  fortunate,  my  sweetest  daughter,  for  you. 

"  Though  I  earnestly  hope  that  you  will  devote  the  rest  of 
your  life  to  medical  science  and  sacred  literature,  so  that  you 
may  be  well  furnished  for  the  whole  scope  of  human  life,  which 
is  to  have  a  healthy  soul  in  a  healthy  body,  and  I  know  that 
you  have  already  laid  the  foundations  of  these  studies,  and  there 
will  be  always  opportunity  to  continue  the  building  ;  yet  I 
am  of  opinion  that  you  may,  with  great  advantage,  give  some 
years  of  your  yet  flourishing  youth  to  humane  letters  and  liberal 
studies.  And  this  both  because  youth  is  more  fitted  for  a 
struggle  with  difficulties  ;  and  because  it  is  uncertain  whether 
you  will  ever  in  future  have  the  benefit  of  so  sedulous,  affec- 
tionate and  learned  a  teacher.  I  need  not  say  that  by  such 
studies  a  good  judgment  is  formed  or  perfected. 

"  It  would  be  a  delight,  my  dear  Margaret,  to  me  to  converse 
long  with  you  on  these  matters ;  but  I  have  just  been  inter- 
rupted and  called  away  by  the  servants,  who  have  brought  in 
supper.  I  must  have  regard  to  others,  else  to  sup  is  not  so 
sweet  as  to  talk  with  you.  Farewell,  my  dearest  child,  and  salute 
for  me  my  most  gentle  son,  your  husband.     I  am  extremely 

138  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

glad  that  he  is  following  the  same  course  of  study  as  yourself. 
I  am  ever  wont  to  persuade  you  to  yield  in  everything  to  your 
husband  ;  now,  on  the  contrary,  I  give  you  full  leave  to  strive 
to  get  before  him  in  the  knowledge  of  the  celestial  system.* 
Farewell  again.  Salute  your  whole  company,  but  especially 
your  tutor." 

Such  letters  as  these  make  the  reader  almost  as  much  in  love 
with  Margaret  Roper  as  her  father  was  ;  and  certainly  whatever 
little  romance  is  wanting  in  the  courtships  of  this  singular  man 
is  made  up  for  in  the  intensity  of  affection  poured  out  from  the 
father's  heart  on  this  gracious  child  from  her  cradle  to  his 

It  is  clear  that  Sir  Thomas  had  a  little  Utopia  of  his  own  in 
his  family.  He  was  making  an  experiment  in  education,  and 
he  was  delighted  with  its  success.  The  fame  of  his  learned 
daughters  became  European,  through  the  praises  of  Erasmus  ; 
and  was  so  great  in  England  that  in  1529,  when  they  were  all 
married  ladies,  they  were  invited  by  the  king  to  hold  a  kind  of 
philosophical  tournament  in  his  presence.  We  learn  this  from  a 
letter  of  John  Palsgrave,  who  was  a  prebendary  of  St.  Paul's,  and 
tutor  to  the  Duke  of  Richmond,  Henry's  son.  He  writes  to 
More  in  July,  1529  :  "  when  your  daughters  disputed  on  philo- 
sophy afore  the  King's  Grace,  I  would  it  had  been  my  fortune 
to  be  present  "  ;  t  an  ineffectual  wish  in  which  the  writer  of 
this  memoir  heartily  joins.;]: 

Section  HI.  Home  and  Parish. 
From  Bucklesbury  More  had  removed  (it  is  said)  to  Crosby 

*■  /;/  pcvnosccnda  spJucra. 

t  Letters  and  Papers,  iv.  5806. 

:J:  The  treatise  Of  the  Sphere  is  referred  to  more  than  once  in  this  chap- 
ter. More  was  fond  of  astronomy,  and  we  know  that  the  king  would 
take  him  on  the  leads  at  night  and  discourse  with  him  about  the 
heavenly  bodies.  There  is  a  rather  amusing  passage  in  one  of  his  con- 
troversial works  giving  an  account  of  the  geocentric  system  then  taught. 
It  will  be  found  in  App.  D.  of  this  work. 


Place,  in  Bishopsgate  Street  (Without),*  and  in  1523  he  pur- 
chased a  piece  of  land  in  Chelsea,  then  more  properly  called 
Chels-hithe,  a  small  village  utterly  separated  from  London,  and 
even  from  Westminster.  The  approach  was  principally  by  the 
river  Thames,  a  clear  and  pleasant  stream  bordered  by  gardens 
and  palaces.  Here  More  laid  out  a  large  garden  stretching 
down  to  the  river,  and  l)uilt  hiimself  a  mansion  about  a  hundred 
yards  from  the  river  side,  "  commodious  rather  than  magnifi- 
cent," says  Erasmus.  Every  vestige  of  More's  house  has 
disappeared.  After  his  attainder  and  death  it  passed  through 
the  hands  of  a  long  series  of  proprietors,  until  it  was  pulled 
down  in  1740,  by  Sir  Hans  Sloane.  Beaufort  Row  runs  over 
or  near  its  site.  In  course  of  time,  when,  besides  his  daughters 
and  their  husbands,  his  son  and  his  son's  wife,  no  less  than 
eleven  grandchildren  resided  with  him,  he  erected  another 
house,  detached  from  the  first,  and  called  the  New  Building. 
In  this  was  his  domestic  oratory,  his  library,  and  study. 

In  his  Utopia,  More  complained  of  the  great  number  of 
retainers  living  idle  and  vicious  lives  in  the  service  of  noblemen, 
and  becoming  the  pest  of  the  country  as  thieves  and  murderers 
when  out  of  service,  from  being  unfit  or  unwilling  to  work. 
Stapleton  tells  us  how  carefully  he  avoided  this  evil  in  the 
management  of  his  own  household.  It  was  one  of  the 
necessities  of  his  dignity  at  court  that  he  should  have  several 
attendants  when  he  went  out.  \Vhen  they  were  not  engaged 
in  this  service  he  would  not  allow  them  to  remain  idle.  He 
divided  his  garden  into  i)ortions,  to  each  of  which  he  assigned 
one  of  his  men  as  its  cultivator.  Some  learnt  to  sing,  others 
to  play  on  the  organ  ;  but  he  absolutely  forbade  games  of  cards 
or  dice,  even  to  the  young  gentlemen  in  his  house.  The  maid- 
servants lived  quite  apart  from  the  men,  and  they  seldom  met. 

*  A  part  of  Crosby  Place  still  stands,  and  is  one  of  the  most  interesting 
relics  of  Old  London,  From  More  it  passed  to  his  rich  friend  Antonio 
Bonvisi,  the  merchant  of  Lucca,  and  from  him  to  William  Roper,  and 
William  Rastell. 

14°  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

When  he  was  at  home  he  had  night  prayers  for  his  family,  at 
which  he  presided,  even  when  he  was  chancellor.  He  recited 
with  them  especially  the  three  psalms,  Miser-ere^  Ad  Te 
Do7nine  levavi,  and  Dens  misereatiir  nostri  with  the  Salve 
Regina  and  Collect^  and  the  De  Frofundis  for  the  holy  souls. 

Writing  in  one  of  his  controversial  works  against  Luther's 
and  Tindale's  assertions  as  to  Christian  liberty,  he  says  there  is 
no  man  so  mad  as  to  doubt  "  that  servants  in  a  man's  house- 
hold are  so  bound  to  obey  their  master's  lawful  commandments 
that  if  they  would  refuse  at  his  bidding  to  kneel  down  and  say 
certain  prayers  with  him  to  bedward,  all  the  whole  house 
together,  till  he  should  show  them  some  such  commandment 
in  scripture,  they  were  well  worthy  to  go  to  the  devil  for  their 
proud  disobedience  in  the  defence  of  their  false  evangelical 
freedom  ".  From  this  he  argues  as  to  the  authority  of  the 
Church,  and  the  "  lewd  lither  losils  that  list  not  to  rise,  but  lie 
still  in  bed  and  say  that  are  not  bound  by  men's  traditions  " 
when  a  general  procession  is  ordered.* 

Every  year  on  Good  Friday  he  called  the  whole  of  his  family 
in  to  the  New  Building  and  there  had  the  Passion  read  to 
to  them,  generally  by  his  secretary,  John  Harris.  More  would 
sometimes  interrupt  the  reading  with  a  few  words  of  pious 
meditation.  At  table  one  of  his  daughters  intoned  after  the 
monastic  fashion  f  some  passage  of  Holy  Scripture,  after 
which  a  short  commentary  by  Nicholas  of  Lyra  or  one  of  the 
Fathers  was  read.  Then  he  would  propose  a  question  concerning 
the  passage  read,  and  there  would  be  a  friendly  discussion.  This 
was  done  especially  if  any  learned  guest  was  present,  and  it 
need  scarcely  be  said  all  this  was  in  Latin.  Then  he  would 
begin  in  English  a  joyous  recreation,  in  which  his  fool  or  jester, 
Henry  Patenson,  would  take  part.    The  task  of  reading  at  table 

*  English  Works,  p.  508. 

+  Intonando,  more  prorsus  ecclesiastico  vel  potius  monastico,  nam  et 
subjiciebatur  in  fine  :   Tu  autetn,  et  legebatur  quousque  daretur  signum. 


was  taken   by  turns  by  the  unmarried  children  ;    after  their 
marriage  by  Margaret  Giggs. 

It  has  been  said  that  he  had  his  domestic  chapel,  with  licence 
to  have  the  holy  sacrifice  offered  within  it.  This  chapel  was  to 
him  a  favourite  place  of  resort.  There,  according  to  Roper,  he 
used  to  spend  the  greater  part  of  every  Friday,  when  at  home, 
meditating  on  the  Passion,  his  favourite  subject,  with  prayers 
and  sacred  penitential  exercises.  When  his  daughter  Margaret 
was  at  the  very  point  of  death  with  the  sweating  sickness,  and 
the  doctors  had  given  up  all  hopes.  Sir  Thomas,  "  going  up 
after  his  usual  manner  into  his  aforesaid  New  Building,  there 
in  his  chapel  on  his  knees  with  tears  most  devoutly  besought 
Almighty  God  that  it  would  like  His  goodness,  unto  whom 
nothing  is  impossible,  if  it  were  His  blessed  will  to  vouchsafe 
graciously  to  hear  his  petition  ".  During  his  prayer,  a  remedy 
that  the  doctors  had  not  tried  came  into  his  mind.  It  proved 
effectual,  though  "  God's  marks,"  or  the  signs  of  death,  were 
already  on  his  daughter's  body  ;  "by  her  father's  most  fervent 
prayers,"  says  his  grateful  son-in-law,  "as  it  was  thought,  was 
she  miraculously  recovered  ;  whom  if  it  had  pleased  God  at 
that  time  to  have  taken  to  His  mercy,  her  father  said  he  would 
never  have  meddled  in  worldly  matters  more  ". 

His  love  of  his  domestic  oratory  and  family  devotions  did 
not  in  any  way  cause  him  to  neglect  his  parish  church.  In 
defending  the  use  and  sanctity  of  churches  against  the  false 
spirituality  of  the  heretics  of  his  own  days  More  has  written  : 
"Albeit  that  some  good  men  here  and  there,  one  among  ten 
thousand,  as  St.  Paul  and  St.  Anthony,  do  live  all  heavenly, 
far  out  of  all  fleshly  company — as  far  from  all  occasions  of 
worldly  wretchedness,  as  from  the  common  temple  or  parish 
church — yet  if  churches  and  congregations  of  Christian  people 
resorting  together  to  God's  service  were  once  abolished  and 
put  away,  we  were  like  to  have  few  good  temples  of  God  in 
men's  souls,  but  all  would  within  a  while  wear  away  clean  and 
clearly  fall  to  nought.     And  this  prove  we  by  experience,  that 

142  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

those  which  be  the  best  temples  of  God  in  their  souls  they  most 
use  to  come  to  the  temple  of  stone  ;  and  those  that  least  come 
there  be  well  known  for  very  ribalds  and  unthrifts,  and  openly 
perceived  for  the  temples  of  the  devil.  And  this  not  in  our 
days  only,  but  so  hath  been  from  Christ's  days  hither."  * 

"  In  the  parish  church  of  Chelsea,"  says  Stapleton,  "  he  had 
built  a  chapel  and  furnished  it  copiously  with  everything 
necessary  for  the  worship  of  God.t  In  this  matter  he  was 
very  generous  and  gave  many  vessels  of  gold  and  silver  to  his 
church,  being  wont  to  say  :  'The  good  give  and  the  bad  steal '. 
In  his  parish  church  he  would  put  on  a  surplice  and  take  his 
part  with  the  choir."J  Once  when  he  was  chancellor  of  the 
kingdom,  the  Duke  of  Norfolk  found  him  wearing  a  surplice 
and  singing.  "  To  whom,  after  service,"  writes  Roper,  "  as 
they  went  homeward  arm  in  arm,  the  duke  said  :  '  God's  body, 
God's  body,  my  Lord  Chancellor  !  What !  a  parish  clerk — a 
parish  clerk  !  You  dishonour  the  king  and  his  office.' 
'  Nay,'  quote  Sir  Thomas  More,  smiling  on  the  duke,  '  Your 
Grace  may  not  think  that  the  king,  your  master  and  mine, 
will  with  me  for  serving  God  his  Master  be  offended,  or  thereby 
account  his  office  dishonoured.'  " 

"Sometimes,"  adds  Stapleton,  "he  served  the  priest's  Mass, 
and  sometimes  in  the  public  supplications  he  carried  the 
Cross  before  the  priest,  not  refusing  or  blushing  to  perform 
the  office  of  a  verger,  rejoicing  rather  like  David  to  become 
still  more  vile  and  humble  in  his  own  eyes.  Though  he  did 
not  carry  the  Cross  when  chancellor,  yet  he  followed  in  the 

*  English  Works,  p.  122. 

t  This  was  the  south  aisle. 

X  Sacerdoti  canenti  concinebat.  Cancrc,  in  old  ecclesiastical  language 
does  not  always  mean  to  sing  the  psalms  and  prayers  in  the  Divine 
Office,  but  "  to  say  mass  ".  Even  a  low  Mass  offered  in  a  low  voice  was 
said  to  be  sung.  Hence  a  chapel  for  such  a  Mass  was  called  a  chantry. 
Yet  here  Stapleton  is  speaking  of  the  choir.  He  mentions  serving  at 
Mass  subsequently. 


rogation  processions  round  the  parish,  and  though  the  walk 
was  long  and  difficult,  and  he  was  asked  by  his  friends  to 
ride,  on  account  of  his  dignity,  he  always  refused,  saying  : 
'  My  Lord  goes  on  foot,  I  will  not  follow  Him  on  horseback  '." 

More  was  fortunate  in  his  parish  priest.  John  Larke,  whom 
he  had  appointed  to  the  rectory  of  Chelsea  in  1530,  laid  down 
his  life  rather  than  defile  his  soul  with  the  oath  of  the  royal 
supremacy,  the  pastor  being  no  doubt  strengthened  to  this 
noble  martyrdom  by  the  example  and  prayers  of  this  leader 
of  his  flock.  Both  now  are  honoured  as  Blessed  by  the 
Church,  having  been  joined  together  in  the  Decree  of  29th 
December,  1886. 

Stapleton  writes  as  follows  of  More's  charity  and  almsgiving: 
"  He  used  himself  to  go  through  the  back  lanes,  and  inquire 
into  the  state  of  poor  families  ;  and  he  would  relieve  their 
distress,  not  by  scattering  a  few  small  coins  as  is  the  general 
custom,  but  when  he  ascertained  a  real  need,  by  two,  three 
or  four  gold  pieces.  When  his  official  position  and  duties 
prevented  this  personal  attention,  he  would  send  some  of  his 
family  to  dispense  his  alms,  especially  to  the  sick  and  the 
aged.  This  office  often  fell  to  Margaret  Gigs,  and  it  was 
especially  at  the  time  of  the  great  feasts  of  the  Church  that 
these  visitations  were  made.  He  very  often  invited  to  his 
table  his  poorer  neighbours,  receiving  them  (not  condescend- 
ingly but)  familiarly  and  joyously ;  he  rarely  invited  the  rich, 
and  scarcely  ever  the  nobility.  In  his  parish  of  Chelsea  he 
hired  a  house,  in  which  he  gathered  many  infirm,  poor  and 
old  people,  and  maintained  them  at  his  own  expense.  When 
More  was  away,  his  daughter,  Margaret,  had  the  care  of  this 
house.  He  even  went  so  far  as  to  receive  into  his  own  family 
and  maintain,  a  poor  gentlewoman,  a  widow  named  Paula, 
who  had  expended  all  she  had  in  an  unsuccessful  lawsuit. 
To  widows  and  orphans,  when  he  practised  at  the  bar,  he 
even  gave  his  services  gratuitously."  * 

*  Vita,  cap.  6. 

144  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Section  IV.  Portraits. 

To  conclude  these  details  of  domestic  and  parochial  life,  before 
we  follow  More  in  his  public  career,  I  will  give  some  account  of 
the  picture  by  which  the  family  group  is  made  familiar  to  us. 
Erasmus,  while  living  in  Basle,  had  made  the  acquaintance  of 
Hans  Holbein,  the  younger.  Holbein  had  been  accus- 
tomed to  work  for  the  corporation,  and  was  also  em- 
ployed by  Froben  the  publisher  in  illustrating  some  of  his 
books.  But  when  the  heresy  of  CEcolampadius  prevailed  in 
that  city  in  1525  and  1526,  so  great  was  the  iconoclastic  fury 
of  the  mob,  that  the  painters  business  came  to  an  end.  At 
this  time  he  heard  of  England,  as  a  place  where  his  art  would 
be  better  appreciated  and  rewarded.  Erasmus  was  living  in 
Fribourg.  From  him  Holbein  obtained  an  introduction  to  Sir 
Thomas  More,  and  with  it  arrived  in  England  towards  the  end 
of  1526.  In  a  letter,  dated  i8ih  December  of  that  year,  More 
replies  to  Erasmus:  "Your  painter  is  a  wonderful  artist,  but 
I  fear  he  may  not  find  England  so  fertile  a  field  as  he 
expected.     I  will  do  my  best  that  he  may  not  find  it  barren."  * 

More  was  true  to  his  promise,  and  it  was  owing  in  great 
measure  to  his  friendship  that  Holbein  attained  both  wealth 
and    celebrity.       Holbein   brought  with   him  two   portraits  of 

*  Inter  Epist.  Erasm.,  334,  in  App.  I  have  consulted  with  regard  to 
the  portraits  of  More,  Dr.  Alfred  Woltmann's  Holbein  and  his  times 
(Eng.  tr.  1872),  Wormun's  Holbein  and  Hans  Holbein,  by  J. 
Cundall  (1882).  The  letter  quoted  above,  alluding  to  Holbein,  is  (as 
usual),  misdated  as  to  the  year  by  the  editor  of  Erasmus.  He  gives  it 
as  iSth  Dec,  1525.  Dr.  Woltmann  places  it  in  1524,  and  remarks  that 
it  is  dated  "from  the  Court  at  Greenwich,"  and  that  the  court  was  at 
Greenwich  in  the  Christmas  of  1524,  but  not  in  1525.  The  correct  date, 
however,  is  1526.  In  that  year  also  the  king  was  to  arrive  at  Greenwich 
on  the  igth  Dec,  and  More  had  no  doubt  preceded  him  by  a  day 
{Letters  and  Papers,  iv.  2712).  That  the  letter  belongs  to  1526  is  proved 
by  the  reference  to  the  second  part  of  the  "  Hyperaspistes  of  Erasmus," 
which  only  appeared  that  year.  Dr.  Woltmann  admits  that  Holbein  did 
not  reach  England  until  1526.  He  therefore  needlessly  conjectured  that 
the  pictures  spoken  of  by  More  had  been  sent  in  advance. 


Erasmus,  one  of  which  is  said  to  be  in  the  possession  of  the 
Earl  of  Radnor  at  Longford  Castle,  near  Salisbury.  His 
work  was  a  better  recommendation  than  the  letter  of  Erasmus, 
and  through  More's  influence,  though  he  did  not  as  yet 
get  known  at  court,  several  great  ecclesiastics  and  noble- 
men sat  for  their  portraits.  It  was  on  the  occasion  of  this 
visit  to  England  that  he  painted  his  exquisite  portrait  of 
Warham,  Archbishop  of  Canterbury,  now  in  Lambeth.  Fisher, 
also,  the  Bishop  of  Rochester,  sat  to  him,  and  though  no 
picture  of  the  holy  martyr  by  the  hand  of  Holbein  is  now  in 
existence,  there  are  two  sketches  in  crayon,  one  in  the  Queen's 
Windsor  collection,  the  other  in  the  British  Museum.*  It  is 
asserted  by  Van  Mander,  the  first  biographer  of  Holbein,  that 
during  his  stay  in  England  he  was  a  guest  of  More's.  Though 
this  is  in  accordance  with  More's  well-known  hospitality,  the 
assertion  rests  on  no  historical  grounds,  and  Van  Mander 
makes  so  many  mistakes  about  this  period,  that  it  is  clear  he 
had  no  authentic  information  ;  nor  was  Holbein  altogether, 
either  in  faith  or  morals,  a  man  in  whose  society  More  would 
have  found  pleasure,  however  much  he  admired  his  art.  Of 
course.  More  himself  gave  him  his  first  commission.  The 
exquisite  portrait,  which  was  kindly  exhibited  by  Mr.  Henry 
Huth  in  the  National  Historical  Portrait  Exhibition  of  1866, 
and  again  by  Mr.  Edward  Huth  in  the  Tudor  Exhibition  of 
1890,  bears  on  the  table  on  which  More  is  leaning  the  date 
1527.  More  was  not  then  Lord  High  Chancellor,  but  he  was 
both  Treasurer  of  the  Household  and  Chancellor  of  the  Duchy 
of  Lancaster.  A  heavy  gold  chain  round  his  neck  indicates  one 
or   other   of  these    dignities. t     The    portrait  is    a    half-length 

*  It  was  Holbein's  custom  to  make  a  rapid  sketch  on  paper,  from  which 
he  worked  leisurely  on  canvas.     His  eye  and  his  pencil  were  unerring. 

t  The  Collar  of  S.S.,  instituted  by  Henry  IV.,  was  a  Lancastrian  badge. 
It  was  totally  distinct  from  the  collar  of  knighthood  (see  Cussan's 
Hiindbook  of  Heraldry,  p.  240  (3rd  ed.),  and  Retrospective  Review  (2nd 
series)  ii.  500). 


146  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

figure  nearly  life-size.  The  face  is  clean  shaved,  and  turned  to 
the  right  of  the  spectator.  Beneath  the  lappets  of  the  cap  is 
shown  some  dark  brown  hair.  The  dress  is  handsome — a 
dark  green  coat,  with  deep  fur  collar  and  crimson  sleeves.  The 
hands,  lightly  joined,  lean  against  a  table — a  ring  is  on  the  first 
finger  of  the  left  hand,  the  right  holds  a  book. 

Besides  this  portrait,  Holbein  painted  a  large  family  group, 
representing  Sir  John  and  Sir  Thomas,  Lady  More,  the  three 
married  daughters  and  the  son;  Anne  Cresacre,  young  John  More's 
fiancee;  and  Margaret  Giggs,  his    adopted  daughter,  the  wife 
of  Dr.  John  Clements.     The  Rev.  John  Lewis  of  Maidstone, 
who  edited  Roper's  Life  of  More  in  1729,  describes  as  follows 
the  picture,  which  he  saw  in  March,  17 17,  at  Well  Hall,  the 
seat  of  the  Roper   family  at   Eltham,  in  Kent:    ''The  room 
which  is  here  represented  seemed  to  me  to  be  a  large  dining- 
room.     At  the  upper  end  stands  a  chamber  organ  on  a  cup- 
board, with  a  curtain  drawn  before  it.     On  each  end  of  the 
cupboard,  which  is  covered  with  a  carpet  of  tapestry,  stands  a 
flowerpot  of  flowers,  and  on  the  cupboard  are  laid  a  lute,  a  base 
viol,  a  pint  pot  or  ewer  covered  in  part  with   a  cloth   folded 
several  times,  and  Boethius,  De  Consolatione  Philosophice ,  with 
two  other  books,  upon  it.     By  this  cupboard  stands  a  daughter 
of  Sir  Thomas  More's,  putting  on   her  right-hand  glove,   and 
having  under  her  arm  a  book  bound  in  red  turkey  leather  and 
gilt,  with    this    inscription    round   the  outside   of  the  cover : 
EpistoHca  Senecce.     Over  her  head  is  written  Elizabetha  Dancea 
Thonicc  Mori filia^  anno  21.     Behind  her  stands  a  woman  hold- 
ing a  book  open  with  both  hands,  over  whose  head  is  written 
Uxor  Johannis  Clements.*     Next  to  Mrs.   Dancy  is  Sir  John 
More  in  his  robes  as  one  of  the  justices  of  the  King's  Bench, 
and  by  him  Sir  Thomas  in  his  chancellor's  robes  f  and  collar 

*  On  the  Basle  sketch  it  is  Margarcta  Giga  dementis  uxor  T homer, 
Mori  filiahiis  condiscipiila  et  cognata,  anno  22. 

t  When  this  picture  was  painted  More  was  not  yet  Lord  High  Chan- 
cellor, nor  does  he  wear  any  robe  of  dignity,  but  the  common  furred  gown. 


of  S.S.,  with  a  rose  pendant  before.  They  are  both  sitting 
on  a  sort  of  tressel  or  armed  bench ;  one  of  the  arms  and 
legs  and  one  of  the  tassels  of  the  cushion  appear  on  the  left  side 
of  Sir  Thomas.  At  the  feet  of  Sir  John  lies  a  cur  dog,  and  at 
Sir  Thomas's  a  Bologna  shock.  Over  Sir  John's  head  is  written 
Johannes  AToriis  pater ^  anno  76  ;  over  Sir  Thomas's,  Thomas 
Moms,  a7ino  50.  Between  t|;iem,  behind,  stands  the  wife*  of 
John  More  (Sir  Thomas's  son),  over  whose  head  is  written 
Anna  Crisacria  Joajinis  Mori  sponsa,  anno  15.  Behind  Sir 
Thomas,  a  little  on  his  left,  stands  his  only  son,  John  More, 
pictured  with  a  very  foolish  aspect,t  and  looking  earnestly  in  a 
book  which  he  holds  open  with  both  his  hands.  Over  his  head 
is  wYiittn  Joan fies  Morus  Thonia  filius^  anno  19.  A  little  to 
the  left  of  Sir  Thomas  are  sitting  on  low  stools  his  two  other 
daughters,  Cascilia  and  Margaret.  Next  him  is  Caecilia,  who 
has  a  book  in  her  hand  clasped.  By  her  sits  her  sister  Mar- 
garet, who  has  likewise  a  book  in  her  lap,  but  wide  open,  in 
which  is  written  :  L.  An.  Se?iecce  /Edipiis.  Fata  si  liceat  niihi 
fingere  arbitrio  nieo,  teinpere)n  zephyro  levis.  On  Caecilia's 
pettycoat  is  written  CcEcilia  Herond^X  Thomce,  Mori  filia,  anno 
20,  and  on  Margaret's  Margareta  Ropera  Thomce  Mori  filia, 
anno  22.  Just  by  Mrs.  Roper  sits  Sir  Thomas's  lady  in  an 
elbow  chair  holding  a  book  open  in  her  hands.  About  her 
neck  she  has  a  gold  chain  with  a  cross  hanging  to  it  before. 
On  her  left  hand  is  a  monkey  chained,  and  holding  part  of  it 
with  one  paw  and  part  of  it  with  the  other.  Over  her  head  is 
written  Uxor  Thomce  Mori,  anno  57. §  Behind  her  is  a  large 
arched  window  in  which  is  placed  a  flower-pot  of  flowers  and  a 

*  Not  wife  {^uxoY)  but  fiancee  {sponsa). 

t  This  is  a  mere  foolish  fancy  of  Lewis.  Mr.  Wornum  says  of  the 
Basle  sketch  "  he  here  makes  the  impression  of  a  gentle,  reflective,  and 
sterling  youth  ""  (p.  320). 

J  Hcrona  in  the  Basle  sketch. 

§  In  the  Basle  sketch  it  is  Alicia  Thomce  Mori  uxor,  anno  57. 

148  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

couple  of  oranges.  Behind  the  two  ladies  stands  Sir  Thomas's 
fool.  He  has  his  cap  on  and  in  it  are  stuck  a  red  and  white 
rose,  and  on  the  brim  of  it  is  a  shield  with  a  red  cross  in 
it,  and  a  sort  of  seal  pendant.  About  his  neck  he  wears  a 
black  string  with  a  cross  hanging  before  him,  and  his  left 
thumb  is  stuck  in  a  broad  leathern  girdle  clasped  about  him. 
Over  his  head  is  written  He7iricus  Pattison  Thomie  servusj^  At 
the  entrance  of  the  room  where  Sir  Thomas  and  his  family  are 
stands  a  man  in  the  portal  who  has  in  his  left  hand  a  roll  of 
papers  or  parchments  with  two  seals  appendant,  as  if  he  was  some 
way  belonging  to  Sir  Thomas  [as  Lord  Chancellor]. f  Over 
his  head  is  written  Joannes  Heresius  Thomce  Mori  faniuhis.  X 
In  another  room,  at  some  distance,  is  seen  through  the  door- 
case, a  man  standing  at  a  large  bow  window  with  short  black 
hair,  in  an  open-sleeved  gown  of  a  sea-green  colour,  holding  a 
book  open  in  his  hands,  written  or  printed  in  the  black  letter, 
and  reading  very  earnestly  in  it.  About  the  middle  of  the 
room  over  against  Sir  Thomas  hangs  a  clock,  with  strings  and 
leaden  weights  without  any  case."  § 

However  minute,  this  is  a  very  inartistic  and  unsatisfactory 
description  of  this  famous  picture.  Mr.  Lewis  says  nothing 
about  its  size,  nor  whether  it  is  painted  on  canvas  or  wood,  nor 
with  what  pigments.  Had  he  not  mentioned  the  colour  of  a 
book  cover,  the  red  and  white  rose,  and  the  sea-green  colour  of 
a  servant's  gown  in  the  background,  we  should  have  been  left 
uncertain  whether  it  was  a  painting  at  all,  or  a  mere  cartoon, 
or  a  pen  and  ink  drawing  like  that  at  Basle. 

In  the  Basle  Museum  is  preserved  the  study  made  for  this 
picture,  a  small  pen  and  ink  sketch,  on  which,  besides  the  in- 

*  In  the  Basle  sketch  Hcnricus  Patensonns  Thomw  Mori  morio,  anno  40. 

t  See  note  at  last  page. 

X  He  is  not  in  the  Basle  sketch. 

§  Lewis  Roper,  App.  xv. 


scriptions  of  names  and  ages  in  Latin,*  are  notes  in  German 
by  Holbein  for  his  own  direction.  The  Basle  sketch  corres- 
ponds in  general  with  Lewis's  account,  but  Lady  More  is 
kneeling  on  a  prie-dieu  instead  of  sitting  in  an  arm-chair.  But 
Holbein  has  written  Diese  soil  sitzen  (this  one  shall  sit),  and 
above  Sir  John's  head,  where  a  violin  and  clock  are  hanging 
on  the  wall,  is  a  note  "  Clavicord  and  other  instruments  on  a 
shelf".  In  the  Basle  sketch  also  the  clerk  or  secretary  John 
Harris  is  not  seen,  nor  the  two  dogs. 

The  picture  described  by  Lewis  is  now  in  the  possession  of 
Lord  St.  Oswald  (formerly  Rowland  Winn,  Esq.),  at  Nostel 
Priory,  near  Wakefield.  The  size  of  the  canvas  is  11  ft.  6  in. 
w.  by  8  ft.  3  in.  h.  Whether  this  is  the  original  by  Holbein  or 
an  exceedingly  able  copy  has  been  disputed. + 

It  is  certain  that  Sir  Thomas  sent  this  or  a  similar  family 
group  as  a  present  to  Erasmus  by  Holbein's  own  hands,  and  it 
is  certain  that  Holbein  had  reached  Basle  by  August,  1528. 
AVhether  the  group  that  he  conveyed  was  the  only  picture  finished 
by  him,  or  whether  it  was  a  replica  of  one  left  in  England, 
or  whether  it  was  merely  the  pen  and  ink  sketch  now  in  Basle, 
I  do  not  find  recorded.  In  the  absence  of  evidence,  I  should 
conjecture  that  Holbein  retained  his  own  sketch  or  study  now 
in  the  Basle  Museum,  and  conveyed  an  oil  painting  to  Erasmus. 
Karel  van  Mander,  who  wrote  in  1608,  mentions  an  original 
painting  by  Holbein  of  this  family  group  being  then  in  the 
possession   of  the  art   collector,    Andries    Van   Loo.     "  From 

*  Mr.  Seebohm  says  "in  Sir  Thomas's  handwriting,"  Mr.  Wornum, 
"  perhaps  by  Erasmus  himself"  ;  which  seems  very  improbable,  for  how 
should  Erasmus  know  the  ages  of  every  member  of  the  household,  even 
the  fool  ? 

t  A  copy  somewhat  mutilated  was  in  possession  of  Mr.  Eyston  of  East 
Hendred  in  1867,  and  another  at  Thorndon  Hall,  the  seat  of  Lord  Petre. 
They  are  described  by  Mr.  Wornum  in  his  Life  and  Works  of  Holbein,  p. 
237.  Both  these  are  coarsely  painted,  and  are  certainly  not  by  Holbein. 
The  genuineness  of  the  Nostel  Priory  picture  is  discussed  at  length  by 
Mr.  Wornum.     lb.,  p.  239. 

150  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

him,"  writes  Mr.  Cundall,  "it  went  back  to  a  grandson  of  Sir 
Thomas  More ;  since  then  it  has  entirely  disappeared."  * 

It  is  important  to  notice  that  the  engravings  of  the  Basle 
sketch  have  an  inscription  "Joannes  Holbein  ad  vivum  delin. 
Londini,  1530".  But  this  date  is  not  on  the  original,  and  is 
incorrect.  Holbein  left  England  in  1528,  and  was  in  Basle  in 
1530.  The  same  erroneous  date  1530  having  been  marked  on 
other  copies  led  to  misdating  the  ages  of  Sir  Thomas  and  all 
his  family.  The  ages  marked  by  Sir  Thomas  refer  to  the  latter 
part  of  1527  or  early  in  1528. 

A  letter  was,  no  doubt,  sent  by  Sir  Thomas  to  Erasmus,  with 
the  picture ;  but  it  no  longer  exists,  nor  the  answer  of  Erasmus. 
It  would  seem,  however,  that  another  letter  was  sent  by  the 
young  ladies,  for  there  is  a  letter  addressed  by  Erasmus  : — 

"To  Margaret  Roper,  the  ornament  of  Britain, — 

"  I  cannot  find  words  to  express  the  joy  I  felt  when  Holbein's 
picture  showed  me  your  whole  family  almost  as  faithfully  as  if 
I  had  you  before  my  eyes.  Often  do  I  form  the  wish  that  even 
once  before  my  last  day  I  may  look  upon  that  most  dear 
society,  to  which  I  owe  a  great  part  of  whatever  little  fortune  or 
glory  I  possess;  and  to  none  could  I  be  indebted  more  willingly. 
The  painter's  skill  has  given  me  no  small  portion  of  my  wish. 
I  recognise  you  all,  but  no  one  better  than  yourself.  I  seem 
to  behold  through  all  your  beautiful  household  a  soul  shining 
forth  still  more  beautiful.  I  congratulate  you  all  in  that  family 
happiness,  but  most  of  all  your  excellent  father."  After  a  few 
words  on  female  culture  and  its  advantages,  he  concludes :  "I  am 
writing  in  bad  health  and  in  the  midst  of  overwhelming  work, 
therefore  I  must  leave  it  to  your  tact  to  convince  all  your  sisters 
that  this  is  a  fair  and  adequate  letter;  and  written  to  each  one 
of  them  no  less  than  to  yourself.     Convey  my  respectful  and 

^- Hans  Holbein,  by  Joseph  Cundall  (1882),  p.  54.  This  of  course 
supposes  that  the  Well  Hall  picture,  now  Lord  St.  Oswald's,  is  either  a 
copy,  or  a  replica. 


affectionate  salutations  to  the  honoured  Lady  AHce,  your  mother. 
I  kiss  her  picture  as  I  cannot  kiss  herself.*  To  my  godson, 
John  More,  I  wish  every  happiness,  and  you  will  give  a  special 
salutation  on  my  part  to  your  honourable  husband,  so  justly 
dear  to  you.  May  God  keep  you  all,  and  give  you  every  pros- 
perity by  His  almighty  grace.  From  Fribourg,  6th  September, 
1529."  + 

Margaret  Roper  replied  in  a  beautiful  Latin  letter.  Quirinus 
had  brought  Erasmus's  elegant  and  loving  letter.  She  had 
never  deserved  or  expected  such  an  honour  as  to  receive  a  letter 
from  the  hand  of  one  who  was  the  pride  and  ornament  of  the 
whole  world  {totius  orbis  decus).  She  does  not  know  how  to 
thank  him  worthily  :  "  You  say  that  the  visit  of  the  painter 
(Holbein)  caused  you  great  pleasure,  because  he  brought  the 
picture  of  both  my  parents  and  of  us  all.  We  are  most  thank- 
ful that  you  are  pleased,  and  we  desire  nothing  more  ardently 
than  to  see  once  more  our  former  tutor  to  whom  we  owe  what- 
ever culture  we  possess,  and  still  more  to  converse  with  the  old 
and  faithful  friend  of  our  father.  My  mother  cordially  salutes 
you,  also  my  husband  and  my  brother,  and  both  my  sisters. 
London,  4th  November,  1529."^ 

Many  portraits  have  been  mistaken  for  Sir  Thomas  More's. 
A  bearded  picture  of  Sir  Thomas  Wyatt,  by  Holbein,  in  the 
Louvre,  was  called  Sir  Thomas  More  because  of  a  gold  chain. 
Even  the  burgomaster  of  Dresden  and  his  family  in  Holbein's 

*  Erasmus  mentions  jokingly  elsewhere  the  custom  then  universal  in 
England  of  thus  saluting  ladies. 

t  Letter  1075. 

X  Letter  352,  in  App.  With  the  words  of  Margaret  Roper — Utriusqtic 
inci  parentis  nostrumqiie  omnitiin  ejfigievi  depictmn — I  do  not  understand 
how  Mr.  Wornum  can  doubt  whether  Sir  Thomas  sent  any  picture  to 
Erasmus,  and  imagine  that  Holbein  either  carried  with  him  a  mere  sketch, 
or  drew  one  from  memory.  Erasmus  also  makes  mention  of  a.  pictura, 
and  of  its  being  perfectly  life-like.  How  could  such  expressions  be  used 
of  a  small  pen  and  ink  sketch  ? 

152  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Meyer  Madonna  have  been  taken  for  More  and  his  family,  though 
there  is  not  an  Enghsh  hne  in  face  or  dress. 

Another  family  group  formerly  at  Burford  Priory,  the  seat 
of  Mr.  Lenthall,  now  in  the  possession  of  Mr.  Walter 
Strickland  of  Cokethorpe  Park,  Oxfordshire,  is  a  composition. 
It  contains  Sir  John  and  Sir  Thomas,  with  four  other  male 
and  four  female  figures,  besides  another  female  who  appears 
in  a  framed  portrait.  Some  of  these  were  descendants  of  Sir 
Thomas  of  a  much  later  date,  for  the  picture  was  painted  in 
'593-  The  margin  contains  long  inscriptions,  not  always 

It  is  instructive  and  somewhat  amusing  to  compare  the 
descriptions  of  professed  or  professional  art  critics.  There 
are  two  crayons  of  Sir  Thomas  More's  head,  unquestionably 
by  Holbein,  in  Her  Majesty's  Windsor  collection.  In  perfect 
agreement  with  these  is  the  finished  portrait  in  the  possession 
of  Mr.  Huth.  Mr.  Wornum  says,  "the  expression  in  this 
picture  is  harsh  and  even  repulsive  "  ;  yet  I  have  myself  seen 
crowds  around  this  picture  so  charmed  as  to  be  almost 
unable  to  draw  themselves  away,  and  all  uttering  exclamations 
on  the  beauty  and  sweetness  of  the  expression.  It  would 
seem  that  Holbein's  portrait  shares  the  mysterious  property 
of  the  face  it  copied ;  it  was  a  riddle  to  each  one  who  read  it, 
or  guessed  at  it  as  he  felt  disposed. 



THE  events  of  More's  public  life,  from  15 17  to  1529,  when 
he  became  chancellor,  are  touched  on,  but  very 
slightly,  in  his  son-in-law's  notes.  Yet  they  were  very 
important  years,  the  years  in  which  he  forsook  the  profession 
of  the  law  for  the  career  of  a  statesman.  That  More's  name 
does  not  appear  much  more  prominently  during  those  years 
in  English  history,  is  greatly  due  to  his  w^ant  of  ambition. 
There  is  not  a  solitary  example  in  his  life  of  his  seeking  any 
advancement  either  in  honours  or  in  wealth.  He  discharged 
his  various  offices,  not  because  he  delighted  in  them — for 
several  inspired  him  with  repugnance — yet  always  cheerfully  as 
acquitting  himself  of  a  duty  to  God  and  his  country. 

When  he  first  perceived  the  likelihood  of  his  being  drawn 
into  public  life,  he  expressed  his  thoughts  on  it  in  such  a 
manner  in  his  Utopia,  that  his  words  might  serve  as  a  protest 
or  declaration  of  principles,  even  if  they  did  not  prove  to 
Wolsey  and  the  king  that  he  was  a  man  unfit  for  statecraft. 
The  long  extracts  I  am  about  to  give  from  his  Utopia  require 
no  apology.  They  are  an  exposition  by  More  himself  of  his 
views  of  the  work  in  which  he  spent  the  years  of  his  manhood. 
It  is  worth  while  to  observe  that,  at  the  very  time  when  More 
was  satirising  the  diplomacy  of  his  age,  Machiavelli  in  Italy, 
whether  satirically  or  not,  was  elaborating  it  into  a  perfect 
system.  * 

*  Seebohm. 

154  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Peter  Giles  and  More,  it  will  be  remembered,  were  discours- 
ing with  Raphael  Hythloday,  the  traveller.  Peter  had  expressed 
his  surprise  that  Hythloday  should  not  give  the  benefit  of  his 
great  experience  to  some  prince.  "  '  I  do  not  see  any  other  way 
in  which  you  can  be  so  useful,  both  in  private  to  your  friends 
and  to  the  public,  and  by  which  you  can  make  your  own  con- 
dition happier.'  'Happier?'  answered  Raphael,  'is  that  to 
be  compassed  in  a  way  so  abhorrent  to  my  genius  ?  Now  I 
live  as  I  will,  to  which,  I  believe,  few  courtiers  can  pretend; 
and  there  are  so  many  that  court  the  favour  of  great  men,  that 
there  will  be  no  great  loss  if  they  are  not  troubled  either  with 
me  or  with  others  of  my  temper.'  Upon  this,  said  I,  'I  per- 
ceive, Raphael,  that  you  neither  desire  wealth  nor  greatness  ; 
and,  indeed,  I  value  and  admire  such  a  man  much  more  than 
I  do  any  of  the  great  men  in  the  world.  Yet  I  think  you 
would  do  what  would  well  become  so  generous  and  philosophical 
a  soul  as  yours  is,  if  you  would  apply  your  time  and  thoughts 
to  public  affairs,  even  though  you  may  happen  to  find  it  a  little 
uneasy  to  yourself;  and  this  you  can  never  do  with  so  much  ad- 
vantage as  by  being  taken  into  the  council  of  some  great  prince 
and  putting  him  on  noble  and  worthy  actions,  which  I  know 
you  would  do  if  you  were  in  such  a  post ;  for  the  springs  both 
of  good  and  evil  flow  from  the  prince  over  a  whole  nation,  as 
from  a  lasting  fountain.  So  much  learning  as  you  have,  even 
without  practice  in  affairs,  or  so  great  a  practice  as  you  have 
had,  without  any  other  learning,  would  render  you  a  very  fit 
counsellor  to  any  king  whatsoever.'  '  You  are  doubly  mis- 
taken,' said  he,  '  Mr.  More,  both  in  your  opinion  of  me  and  in 
the  judgment  you  make  of  things :  for  as  I  have  not  that 
capacity  that  you  fancy  I  have,  so  if  I  had  it,  the  public  would 
not  be  one  jot  the  better  when  I  had  sacrificed  my  quiet  to  it. 
For  most  princes  apply  themselves  more  to  affairs  of  war  than 
to  the  useful  arts  of  peace ;  and  in  these  I  neither  have  any 
knowledge,  nor  do  I  much  desire  it ;  they  are  generally  more  set  on 
acquiring   new  kingdoms   right  or  wrong,  than   on  governing 


well  those  they  possess :  and,  among  the  ministers  of  princes, 
there  are  none  that  are  not  so  wise  as  to  need  no  assistance,  or, 
at  least,  that  do  not  think  themselves  so  wise  that  they 
imagine  they  need  none  ;  and  if  they  court  any,  it  is  only  those 
for  whom  the  prince  has  much  personal  favour,  whom  by 
their  fawnings  and  flatteries  they  endeavour  to  fix  to  their  own 
interests ;  and,  indeed,  nature  has  so  made  us,  that  we  all  love 
to  be  flattered  and  to  please  ourselves  with  our  own  notions  : 
the  old  crow  loves  his  young,  and  the  ape  her  cubs.  Now,  if 
in  such  a  court,  made  up  of  persons  who  envy  all  others  and 
only  admire  themselves,  a  person  should  but  propose  any- 
thing that  he  had  either  read  in  history  or  observed  in 
his  travels,  the  rest  would  think  that  the  reputation  of 
their  wisdom  would  sink,  and  that  their  interests  would  be 
much  depressed  if  they  could  not  run  it  down  :  and  if  all  other 
things  failed,  then  they  would  fly  to  this,  that  such  or  such 
things  pleased  our  ancestors,  and  it  were  well  for  us  if  we  could 
but  match  them.  They  would  set  up  their  rest  on  such  an 
answer  as  a  sufficient  confutation  of  all  that  could  be  said,  as 
if  it  were  a  great  misfortune  that  any  should  be  found  wiser 
than  his  ancestors.  But  though  they  willingly  let  go  all  the 
good  things  that  were  among  those  of  former  ages,  yet,  if  better 
things  are  proposed,  they  cover  themselves  obstinately  with 
this  excuse  of  reverence  to  past  times.  I  have  met  with  these 
proud,  morose,  and  absurd  judgments  of  things  in  many  places, 
particularly  once  in  England.'  " 

Then,  after  a  long  story  of  a  conversation  at  Cardinal 
Morton's  table,  they  return  once  more  to  the  subject.  "  '  You 
have  done  me  a  great  kindness,'  said  I,  '  in  this  relation  ;  you 
have  made  me  imagine  that  I  was  in  my  own  country  and 
grown  young  again,  by  recalling  that  good  cardinal  to  my 
thoughts,  in  whose  family  I  was  bred  from  my  childhood  ;  but 
after  all  this  I  cannot  change  my  opinion,  for  I  still  think  that  if 
you  could  overcome  that  aversion  which  you  have  to  the  courts 
of  princes,  you  might,  by  the  advice  which  it  is  in  your  power 

156  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

to  give,  do  a  great  deal  of  good  to  mankind,  and  this  is  the 
chief  design  that  every  good  man  ought  to  propose  to  himself 
in  living ;  for  your  friend  Plato  thinks  that  nations  will  be 
happy  when  either  philosophers  become  kings  or  kings 
become  philosophers.  It  is  no  wonder  if  we  are  so  far  from 
that  happiness  while  philosophers  will  not  think  it  their  duty 
to  assist  kings  with  their  counsels.'  '  They  are  not  so  base- 
minded,'  said  he,  '  but  that  they  would  willingly  do  it  :  many 
of  them  have  already  done  it  by  their  books,  if  those  that  are  in 
power  would  but  hearken  to  their  good  advice.  But  Plato 
judged  right,  that  except  kings  themselves  became  philosophers, 
they  who  from  their  childhood  are  corrupted  with  false  notions 
would  never  fall  in  entirely  with  the  counsels  of  philosophers, 
and  this  he  himself  found  to  be  true  in  the  person  of  Dionysius. 
"  '  Do  not  you  think  that  if  I  were  about  any  king,  propos- 
ing good  laws  to  him,  and  endeavouring  to  root  out  all  the  cursed 
seeds  ofevilthati  found  in  him,  I  should  either  be  turned  out  of 
his  court,  or,  at  least,  be  laughed  at  for  my  pains  ?  For  instance, 
what  could  I  signify  if  I  were  about  the  King  of  France,  and 
were  called  into  his  cabinet  council,  where  several  wise  men,  in 
his  hearing,  were  proposing  many  expedients  :  as,  by  what  arts 
and  practices  Milan  may  be  kept,  and  Naples,  that  has  so 
often  slipped  out  of  their  hands,  recovered  ;  how  the  Venetians, 
and  after  them  the  rest  of  Italy,  may  be  subdued  ;  and  then 
how  Flanders,  Brabant,  and  all  Burgundy,  and  some  other 
kingdoms  which  he  has  swallowed  already  in  his  designs,  may 
be  added  to  his  empire  ?  One  proposes  a  league  with  the 
Venetians,  to  be  kept  as  long  as  he  finds  his  account  in  it, 
and  that  he  ought  to  communicate  counsels  with  them,  and 
give  them  some  share  of  the  spoil  till  his  success  makes  him 
need  or  fear  them  less,  and  then  it  will  be  easily  taken  out  of 
their  hands;  another  proposes  the  hiring  the  Germans  and  the 
securing  the  Switzers  by  pensions  ;  another  proposes  pro- 
pitiating the  deity  of  the  emperor  by  a  sacrifice  of  gold  ;  another 
proposes  a  peace  with  the  King  of  Arragon,  and,  in  order  to 


cement  it,  the  yielding  up  the  King  of  Navarre's  pretensions ; 
another  thinks  that  the  Prince  of  Castile  is  to  be  wrought  on 
by  the  hope  of  an  alliance,  and  that  some  of  his  courtiers  are 
to  be  gained  to  the  French  faction  by  pensions.  The  hardest 
point  of  all  is,  what  to  do  with  England ;  a  treaty  of  peace  is 
to  be  set  on  foot,  and,  if  their  alliance  is  not  to  be  depended 
on,  yet  it  is  to  be  made  as  firm  as  possible,  and  they  are  to  be 
called  friends,  but  suspected  as  enemies  :  therefore  the  Scots 
are  to  be  kept  in  readiness  to  be  let  loose  upon  England  on 
every  occasion  ;  and  some  banished  nobleman  is  to  be  sup- 
ported underhand  (for  by  the  league  it  cannot  be  done 
avowedly)  who  has  a  pretension  to  the  crown,  by  which  means 
that  suspected  prince  may  be  kept  in  awe. 

"  '  Now,  when  things  are  in  so  great  a  fermentation,  and  so 
many  gallant  men  are  joining  counsels  how  to  carry  on  the 
war,  if  so  mean  a  man  as  I  should  stand  up  and  wish  them  to 
change  all  their  counsels — to  let  Italy  alone  and  stay  at  home, 
since  the  kingdom  of  France  was  indeed  greater  than  could  be 
well  governed  by  one  man ;  that  therefore  he  ought  not  to 
think  of  adding  others  to  it ;  and  if,  after  this,  I  should  pro- 
pose to  them  the  resolutions  of  the  Achorians,  a  people  that 
lie  on  the  south-east  of  Utopia,  who  long  ago  engaged  in  war 
in  order  to  add  to  the  dominions  of  their  prince  another 
kingdom,  to  which  he  had  some  pretensions  by  an  ancient 
alliance  ;  this  they  conquered,  but  found  that  the  trouble  of 
keeping  it  was  equal  to  that  by  which  it  was  gained ;  that  the 
conquered  people  were  always  either  in  rebellion  or  exposed 
to  foreign  invasions,  while  they  were  obliged  to  be  incessantly 
at  war,  either  for  or  against  them,  and  consequently  could 
never  disband  their  army ;  that  in  the  meantime  they  were 
oppressed  with  taxes,  their  money  went  out  of  the  kingdom, 
their  blood  was  spilt  for  the  glory  of  others  without  peace 
being  secured ;  and  that,  their  manners  being  corrupted  by  a 
long  war,  robbery  and  murders  everywhere  abounded,  and 
their  laws  fell  into  contempt ;  while  their  king,  distracted  with 

158  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

the  care  of  two  kingdoms,  was  the  less  able  to  apply  his  mind 
to  the  interest  of  either.  When  they  saw  this,  and  that  there 
would  be  no  end  to  these  evils,  they  by  joint  counsels  made 
an  humble  address  to  their  king,  desiring  him  to  choose  which 
of  the  two  kingdomiS  he  had  the  greatest  mind  to  keep,  since 
he  could  not  hold  both ;  for  they  were  too  great  a  people  to 
be  governed  by  a  divided  king,  since  no  man  would  willingly 
have  a  sroom  that  should  be  in  common  between  him  and 
another.  Upon  which  the  good  prince  was  forced  to  quit 
his  new  kingdom  to  one  of  his  friends  (who  was  not  long  after 
dethroned),  and  to  be  contented  with  his  old  one.  To  this  I 
would  add  that,  after  all  those  warlike  attempts,  the  vast 
confusions,  and  the  consumption  both  of  treasure  and  of 
people  that  must  follow  them,  perhaps  upon  some  misfortune 
they  might  be  forced  to  throw  up  all  at  last;  therefore,  it 
seemed  much  more  eligible  that  the  king  should  improve  his 
ancient  kingdom  all  he  could,  and  make  it  flourish  as  much 
as  possible  ;  that  he  should  love  his  people,  and  be  beloved  of 
them ;  that  he  should  live  among  them,  govern  them  gently, 
and  let  other  kingdoms  alone,  since  that  which  had  fallen  to 
his  share  was  big  enough,  if  not  too  big,  for  him  :— pray,  how 
do  you  think  would  such  a  speech  as  this  be  heard  ? ' 

" '  I  confess,'  said  I,   '  I  think  not  very  well.' 

" '  But  what,'  said  he,  '  if  I  should  sort  with  another  kind 
of  ministers,  whose  chief  contrivances  and  consultations  were 
by  what  art  the  prince's  treasures  might  be  increased  ?  where 
one  proposes  raising  the  value  of  specie  when  the  king's  debts 
are  large,  and  lowering  it  when  his  revenues  were  to  come  in, 
that  so  he  might  both  pay  much  with  a  little,  and  in  a  little 
receive  a  great  deal.  Another  proposes  a  pretence  of  war, 
that  money  might  be  raised  in  order  to  carry  it  on,  and  that  a 
peace  be  concluded  as  soon  as  that  was  done ;  and  this  with 
such  appearances  of  religion  as  might  work  on  the  people, 
and  make  them  impute  it  to  the  piety  of  their  prince,  and  to 
his  tenderness  for  the  lives  of  his   subjects.     A  third   offers 


some  old  musty  laws  that  have  been  antiquated  by  a  long 
disuse  (and  which,  as  they  had  been  forgotten  by  all  the 
subjects,  so  they  had  also  been  broken  by  them),  and  proposes 
the  levying  the  penalties  of  these  laws,  that,  as  it  would  bring 
in  a  vast  treasure,  so  there  might  be  a  very  good  pretence  for 
it,  since  it  would  look  like  the  executing  a  law  and  the  doing 
of  justice.  A  fourth  proposes  the  prohibiting  of  many  things 
under  severe  penalties,  especially  such  as  were  against  the 
interest  of  the  people,  and  then  the  dispensing  with  these  pro- 
hibitions, upon  great  compositions,  to  those  who  might  find  their 
advantage  in  breaking  them.  This  would  serve  two  ends,  both 
of  them  acceptable  to  many ;  for  as  those  whose  avarice  led 
them  to  transgress  would  be  severely  fined,  so  the  selling 
licenses  dear  would  look  as  if  a  prince  were  tender  of  his 
people,  and  would  not  easily,  or  at  low  rates,  dispense  with 
anything  that  might  be  against  the  public  good.  Another 
proposes  that  the  judges  must  be  made  sure,  that  they  may 
declare  always  in  favour  of  the  prerogative ;  that  they  must  be 
often  sent  for  to  court,  that  the  king  may  hear  them  argue  those 
points  in  which  he  is  concerned ;  since,  how  unjust  soever  any 
of  his  pretensions  may  be,  yet  still  some  one  or  other  of  them, 
either  out  of  contradiction  to  others,  or  the  pride  of  singularity, 
or  to  make  their  court,  would  find  out  some  pretence  or  other 
to  give  the  king  a  fair  colour  to  carry  the  point.  For  if  the 
judges  but  differ  in  opinion,  the  clearest  thing  in  the  world  is 
made  by  that  means  disputable,  and  truth  being  once  brought 
in  question,  the  king  may  then  take  advantage  to  expound  the 
law  for  his  own  profit ;  while  the  judges  that  stand  out  will  be 
brought  over,  either  through  fear  or  modesty ;  and  they  being 
thus  gained,  all  of  them  may  be  sent  to  the  bench  to  give 
sentence  boldly  as  the  king  would  have  it ;  for  fair  pretences 
will  never  be  wanting  when  sentence  is  to  be  given  in  the 
prince's  favour.  It  will  either  be  said  that  equity  lies  of  his 
side,  or  some  words  in  the  law  will  be  found  sounding  that 
way,  or  some  forced  sense  will  be  put  on  them  ;  and,  when  all 

l5o  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Other  things  fail,  the  king's  undoubted  prerogative  will  be  pre- 
tended, as  that  which  is  above  all  law,  and  to  which  a  religious 
judge  ought  to  have  a  special  regard.  Thus  all  consent  to  that 
maxim  of  Crassus,  that  a  prince  cannot  have  treasure  enough, 
since  he  must  maintain  his  armies  out  of  it ;  that  a  king,  even 
though  he  would,  can  do  nothing  unjustly  ;  that  all  property  is 
in  him,  not  excepting  the  very  persons  of  his  subjects ;  and 
that  no  man  has  any  other  property  but  that  which  the  king, 
out  of  his  goodness,  thinks  fit  to  leave  him.  And  they  think 
it  is  the  prince's  interest  that  there  be  as  little  of  this  left  as 
may  be,  as  if  it  were  his  advantage  that  his  people  should  have 
neither  riches  nor  liberty,  since  these  things  make  them  less 
easy  and  willing  to  submit  to  a  cruel  and  unjust  government. 
Whereas  necessity  and  poverty  blunts  them,  makes  them 
patient,  beats  them  down,  and  breaks  that  height  of  spirit  that 
might  otherwise  dispose  them  to  rebel. 

'"Now,  what  if,  after  all  these  propositions  were  made,  I  should 
rise  up  and  assert  that  such  counsels  were  both  unbecoming  a 
king  and  mischievous  to  him ;  and  that  not  only  his  honour, 
but  his  safety,  consisted  more  in  his  people's  wealth  than  in  his 
own  ;  if  I  should  show  that  they  choose  a  king  for  their  own 
sake,  and  not  for  his  ;  that,  by  his  care  and  endeavours,  they 
may  be  both  easy  and  safe ;  and  that,  therefore,  a  prince  ought 
to  take  more  care  of  his  people's  happiness  than  of  his  own,  as 
a  shepherd  is  to  take  more  care  of  his  flock  than  of  himself? 
It  is  also  certain  that  they  are  much  mistaken  that  think  the 
poverty  of  a  nation  is  a  means  of  the  public  safety.  Who 
quarrel  more  than  beggars  ?  who  does  more  earnestly  long  for 
a  change  than  he  that  is  uneasy  in  his  present  circumstances  ? 
and  who  run  to  create  confusions  with  so  desperate  a  boldness 
as  those  who,  having  nothing  to  lose,  hope  to  gain  by  them  ? 
If  a  king  should  fall  under  such  contempt  or  envy  that  he  could 
not  keep  his  subjects  in  their  duty  but  by  oppression  and  ill 
usage,  and  by  rendering  them  poor  and  miserable,  it  were 
certainly  better  for  him  to  quit  his  kingdom  than  to  retain  it  by 


such  methods  as  make  him,  while  he  keeps  the  name  of 
authority,  lose  the  majesty  due  to  it.  Nor  is  it  so  becoming 
the  dignity  of  a  king  to  reign  over  beggars  as  over  rich  and 
happy  subjects.  And  therefore  Fabricius,  a  man  of  a  noble 
and  exalted  temper,  said  "  he  would  rather  govern  rich  men 
than  be  rich  himself;  since  for  one  man  to  abound  in  wealth 
and  pleasure  when  all  about  him  are  mourning  and  groaning, 
is  to  be  a  gaoler  and  not  a  king  ".  He  is  an  unskilful  physician 
that  cannot  cure  one  disease  without  casting  his  patient  into 
another.  So  he  that  can  find  no  other  way  for  correcting  the 
errors  of  his  people  but  by  taking  from  them  the  conveniences 
of  life,  shows  that  he  knows  not  what  it  is  to  govern  a  free 
nation.  He  himself  ought  rather  to  shake  off  his  sloth,  or  to 
lay  down  his  pride,  for  the  contempt  or  hatred  that  his  people 
have  for  him  takes  its  rise  from  the  vices  in  himself.  Let 
him  live  upon  what  belongs  to  him  without  wronging  others, 
and  accommodate  his  expense  to  his  revenue.  Let  him  punish 
crimes,  and,  by  his  wise  conduct,  let  him  endeavour  to  prevent 
them,  rather  than  be  severe  when  he  has  suffered  them  to  be 
too  common.  Let  him  not  rashly  revive  laws  that  are  abro- 
gated by  disuse,  especially  if  they  have  been  long  forgotten  and 
never  wanted.  And  let  him  never  take  any  penalty  for  the 
breach  of  them  to  which  a  judge  would  not  give  way  in  a 
private  man,  but  would  look  on  him  as  a  crafty  and  unjust 
person  for  pretending  to  it. 

"  '  If  I  should  talk  of  these  or  such-like  things  to  men  that 
had  taken  their  bias  another  way,  how  deaf  would  they  be  to 
all  1  could  say  ! ' 

"  '  No  doubt,  very  deaf,'  answered  I  ;  '  and  no  wonder,  for 
one  is  never  to  offer  propositions  or  advice  that  we  are  certain 
will  not  be  entertained.  Discourses  so  much  out  of  the  road 
could  not  avail  anything  nor  have  any  effect  on  men  whose 
minds  were  prepossessed  with  different  sentiments.  This 
philosophical  way  of  speculating  is  not  unpleasant  among 
friends    in    a    free    conversation ;    but    there  is  no  room    for 


1 62  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

it  in  the  courts  of  princes,  where  great  affairs  are  carried  on  by 

"  '  That  is  what  I  was  saying,'  rephed  he,  '  that  there  is  no 
room  for  philosophy  in  the   courts  of  princes.'      '  Yes,  there 
is,'  said  I,  '  but  not  for  this  speculative  philosophy,  that  makes 
everything  to  be  alike  fitting  at  all  times  ;  but  there  is  another, 
philosophy  that  is   more  pliable,  that  knows  its  proper  scene, 
accommodates  itself  to  it,  and  teaches  a  man  with  propriety 
and  decency  to  act   that  part  which  has   fallen   to  his  share. 
If  when  one  of  Plautus'  comedies  is  upon  the  stage,  and  a 
company  of  servants  are  acting  their  parts,  you  should  come 
out  in  the  garb  of  a  philosopher,  and  repeat,  out  of  Odavia,  a 
discourse  of  Seneca's  to  Nero,  would  it  not  be  better  for  you 
to  say  nothing  than  by  mixing  things  of  different  natures  to 
make  an  impertinent  tragic-comedy  ?  for  you  spoil  and  corrupt 
the  play  that   is  in  hand  when  you   mix  with  it  things  of  an 
opposite  nature,  even  though  they  are  much  better.     Therefore, 
go  through  with  the  play  that  is  acting  the  best  you  can,  and 
do  not  confound  it  because  another  that  is  pleasanter  comes 
into  your  thoughts.     It  is  even  so  in  a  commonwealth  and  in 
the  councils  of  princes ;  if  ill  opinions  cannot  be  quite  rooted 
out,  and  you  cannot  cure  some  received  vice  according  to  your 
wishes,  you  must  not,  therefore,  abandon  the  commonwealth, 
for  the  same  reasons  as  you  should  not  forsake  the  ship  in  a 
storm  because  you  cannot  command  the  winds.     You  are  not 
obliged  to  assault  people  with  discourses  that  are  out  of  their 
road,  when  you  see  that  their  received  notions  must  prevent 
your  making  an  impression  upon  them  :  you  ought  rather  to 
cast  about  and  to  manage  things  with  all  the  dexterity  in  your 
power,   so  that,  if  you  are  not  able  to  make  them  go  well,  they 
may  be  as  little  ill  as  possible  ;  for,  except  all  men  were  good, 
everything  cannot  be  right,  and  that  is  a  blessing  that  I  do  not 
at  present  hope  to  see.' 

" '  According    to  your  argument,'  answered  he,  '  all  that  I 
could  be  able  to  do  would  be  to  preserve  myself  from  being 


mad  while  I  endeavour  to  cure  the  madness  of  others  ;  for,  if  I 
speak  truth,  I  must  repeat  what  I  have  said  to  you  ;  and  as  for 
lying,  whether  a  philosopher  can  do  it  or  not  I  cannot  tell  :  I 
am  sure  I  cannot  do  it.  But  though  these  discourses  may  be 
uneasy  and  ungrateful  to  them,  I  do  not  see  why  they  should 
seem  foolish  or  extravagant ;  indeed,  if  I  should  either  propose 
such  things  as  Plato  has  contrived  in  his  "  Commonwealth,"  or 
as  the  Utopians  practise  in  theirs,  though  they  might  seem 
better,  as  certainly  they  are,  yet  they  are  so  different  from  our 
establishment,  which  is  founded  on  property  (there  being  no 
such  thing  among  them),  that  I  could  not  expect  that  it  would 
have  any  effect  on  them.  But  such  discourses  as  mine,  which 
only  call  past  evils  to  mind  and  give  warning  of  what  may 
follow,  have  nothing  in  them  that  is  so  absurd  that  they  may 
not  be  used  at  any  time,  for  they  can  only  be  unpleasant  to 
those  who  are  resolved  to  run  headlong  the  contrary  way  ;  and 
if  we  must  let  alone  everything  as  absurd  or  extravagant,  which, 
by  reason  of  the  wicked  lives  of  many,  may  seem  uncouth,  we 
must,  even  among  Christians,  give  over  pressing  the  greatest 
part  of  those  things  that  Christ  hath  taught  us,  though  He  has 
commanded  us  not  to  conceal  them,  but  to  proclaim  on  the 
housetops  that  which  He  taught  in  secret.  The  greatest  parts 
of  His  precepts  are  more  opposite  to  the  lives  of  the  men  of 
this  age  than  any  part  of  my  discourse  has  been,  but  the 
preachers  seem  to  have  learned  that  craft  to  which  you  advise 
me  :  for  they,  observing  that  the  world  would  not  wilHngly  suit 
their  lives  to  the  rules  that  Christ  has  given,  have  fitted  His 
doctrine,  as  if  it  had  been  a  leaden  rule,  to  their  lives,  that  so, 
some  way  or  other,  they  might  agree  with  one  another.  But  I 
see  no  other  effect  of  this  compliance  except  it  be  that  men 
become  more  secure  in  their  wickedness  by  it ;  and  this  is  all 
the  success  that  I  can  have  in  a  court,  for  either  I  must  always 
differ  from  the  rest,  and  then  I  shall  signify  nothing :  or,  if  I 
agree  with  them,  I  shall  then  only  help  forward  their  madness. 
I  do  not  comprehend  what  you  mean  by  your  "casting  about," 

164  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

or  by  "the  bending  and  handling  things  so  dexterously  that,  if 
they  go  not  well,  they  may  go  as  little  ill  as  may  be  "  ;  for  in 
courts  they  will  not  bear  with  a  man's  holding  his  peace  or 
conniving  at  what  others  do  :  a  man  must  barefacedly  approve 
of  the  worst  counsels  and  consent  to  the  blackest  designs, 
so  that  he  would  pass  for  a  spy,  or,  possibly,  for  a  traitor, 
that  did  but  coldly  approve  of  such  wicked  practices  ;  and, 
therefore,  when  a  man  is  engaged  in  such  a  society,  he  will 
be  so  far  from  being  able  to  mend  matters  by  his  "  casting 
about,"  as  you  call  it,  that  he  will  find  no  occasions  of  doing 
any  good — the  ill  company  will  sooner  corrupt  him  than  be  the 
better  for  him  ;  or  if,  notwithstanding  all  their  ill  company,  he 
still  remains  steady  and  innocent,  yet  their  follies  and  knavery 
will  be  imputed  to  him  ;  and,  by  mixing  counsels  with  them,  he 
must  bear  his  share  of  all  the  blame  that  belongs  wholly  to 
others.'  "  * 

No  one  can  say  that  More  had  not  spoken  out.  The 
simplest  peasant  in  England  would  have  known  that,  what- 
ever truth  there  was  in  his  invective  against  the  insatiable 
ambition  and  crooked  policy  of  the  French  kings,  Louis  XII. 
and  Francis  I.,  the  discourse  was  aimed  at  the  foolish  vanity 
of  the  king  of  England,  who  was  dreaming  of  the  recovery  of 
the  possessions  of  his  ancestors  on  the  continent,  and  for  that 
end  had  twice  invaded  France. +  It  is  somewhat  to  the  honour 
of  Henry  that,  after  reading  this  declaration  of  free  and  noble 
principles,  he  should  have  been  so  eager  to  secure  the  writer 
as  his  councillor.  Years  afterwards  More  respectfully  declared 
to  the  king,  that  "he  always  bare  in  mind  the  most  godly 
words  that  his  Highness  spoke  unto  him  upon  his  first  entry 
into  his  noble  service — the  most  virtuous  lesson  that  ever 
prince  taught  his  servant — willing  him  first  to  look  unto  God, 
and  aftei  God,  unto  him  ;  so  in  good  faith,  he  said,  he  did,  or 

*  Burnet's  translation,  slightly  corrected  by  the  Latin, 
t  In  1512  and  1513. 


else  might  His  Grace  well  account  him  for  his  most  unworthy 
servant ".  * 

From  this  review  of  his  principles  let  us  now  turn  to  his 
acts.  Roper's  memory  was  not  quite  accurate  as  to  the 
sequence  of  events.  He  says  that  More  "continued  in  the 
king's  singular  favour  and  trusty  service  twenty  years  and 
above".  If  we  reckon  from  the  spring  of  1532,  when  he 
resigned  the  chancellorship,  this  would  take  us  back  to  15 12, 
which  is  quite  too  early.  On  the  other  hand,  Roper  says 
that  "before  he  came  to  the  service  of  the  king  he  had  been 
twice  ambassador  "  in  the  interests  of  the  London  merchants. 
Now,  the  second  embassy  brings  us  to  the  end  of  15 17,  and 
this  date  is  confirmed  from  other  sources.  But,  again,  his 
son-in-law  is  certainly  mistaken  when  he  says  that  the  king 
summoned  him  "to  court,  "  made  him  Master  of  the  Requests 
(having  then  no  better  room  void),  and  within  a  month  after 
knight,  and  one  of  his  privy  council ". 

When  we  control  these  assertions  by  authentic  records,  it 
appears  that  early  in  15 18  More  became  finally  a  courtier, 
or  rather  took  office  at  court ;  +  he  was  probably  not  made  a 
privy  councillor  until  the  summer  of  that  year,  and  not 
knighted  until  the  summer  of  152 1. 

A  word  or  two  about  the  Privy  Council  in  the  time  of 
Henry  VHI.  will  help  the  reader  to  realise  More's  position. 
The  King's  Great  Court  or  Council  had  originally  combined 
the  legislative,  judicial  and  administrative  functions.  A  large 
portion  of  its  judicial  functions  was  separated  from  it,  and 
constituted  the  three  tribunals  of  the  King's  Bench,  Common 
Pleas,  and  Exchequer.  The  king,  however,  still  retained 
near  him  his  chief  ministers  who  formed  his  Privy  Council — 
the  Chancellor,  Treasurer,  Lord  Steward,  Lord  Admiral,  Lord 

*  Roper. 

t  He  did  not,   however,  resign   his  office  of  under-sheriff  until  23rd 
uly,  1519,  according  to  Mr.  Foss  and  Sir  James  Mackintosh. 

l66  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Marshall,  the  Keeper  of  the  Privy  Seal,  the  Chamberlain, 
Treasurer  and  Comptroller  of  the  Household,  the  Chancellor 
of  the  Exchequer,  and  Chancellor  of  the  Duchy  of  Lancaster, 
the  Master  of  the  Wardrobe,  the  Judges,  Attorney-General  and 
Master  of  the  Rolls.  When  the  business  was  special  those 
only  to  whose  department  it  belonged  were  summoned  :  the 
chancellor  and  judges  for  matters  of  law ;  the  officers  of  state 
for  what  concerned  the  revenue  or  household.  Whether  un- 
constitutionally or  not,  the  business  of  the  Council  under  the 
Tudors  w^as  both  deliberative  and  judicial ;  they  issued 
ordinances,  and  claimed  and  exercised  the  right  to  imprison 
without  formal  conviction  of  crime. 

The  first  charge  given  to  More  was  that  of  Master  of 
Requests.  As  the  king  made  his  progresses  from  place  to 
place,  many  petitions  w^ere  presented  to  him.  These  were 
referred  to  certain  members  of  his  household,  of  whom  at  least 
two  were  to  be  always  in  attendance.  More  still  retained  this 
office  after  being  promoted  to  high  dignity,  and  it  gave  him 
many  opportunities  of  exercising  justice  and  charity.  * 

The  records  of  the  Privy  Council  are  lost  for  the  w^hole 
period  of  More's  lifetime,  so  that  we  are  left  to  glean  our  in- 
formation from  occasional  mention  in  letters  or  documents  of 
the  time.  His  reputation  for  uprightness  made  his  access  to 
the  king  welcome  news  to  all  good  men.  Sebastian  Justiniani, 
the  Venetian  ambassador,  wTOte  on  i8th  February,  15 18,  that 
the  cardinal  had  appointed  Richard  Pace  and  Thomas  More 
as  commissioners  to  negotiate  the  repeal  of  the  wine  duties. 
*'  They  are,"  he  says,  "  the  most  sage,  most  virtuous,  and  most 
linked  with  myself  of  any  in  England.  I  suspect,  however, 
that  this  promise  will  not  be  performed,  because  Pace  is  known 
to  be  devoted  to  the  Signory  cuid  More  to  jusfice.'''\     On  3rd 

*  In   1526,  when  the  household  was  remodelled,   he  remained  one  of 
the  examiners  of  petitions  {Letters  and  Papers,  iv.  1939). 
+  Venetian  State  Papers,  ii.  loio. 


September,  15 17,  More  had  written  to  Erasmus:  "I  gave  your 
letters  to  the  Venetian  ambassador.  We  scratched  each  other 
with  set  speeches  and  lengthened  compliments  ;  but,  to  tell  the 
truth,  he  pleases  me  much.  He  seems  a  most  honourable 
man,  with  great  experience  of  the  world,  and  now  bent  on  the 
knowledge  of  things  divine  ;  last,  not  least,  very  fond  of  you." 

Erasmus  rejoiced  that  literature  had  gained  a  new  patron. 
"  Many  learned  men,"  he  writes,  26th  July,  15 18,  "  are  now  in 
the  English  Court :  Linacre,  the  king's  physician  ;  Tunstall, 
master  of  the  rolls  ;  More,  privy  councillor ;  Pace,  secretary  ; 
Mountjoy,  chamberlain ;  Colet,  preacher ;  Stokesley,  con- 
fessor."* All,  however,  were  not  learned  men  in  the  Council, 
and  More  must  have  been  often  amused  at  the  uncouth  spelling 
of  the  king's  brother-in-law,  the  Duke  of  Suffolk.  A  specimen 
from  a  letter  just  of  this  date  will  amuse  the  reader.  He  writes 
that  it  hath  pleased  God  "to  wyesset  his  wife  (the  ex-Queen  of 
France)  wyet  a  nague,  the  wyche  has  taken  Her  Grace  hewarre 
third  day  4  tyemes  wyree  sharpe"t  (in  modern  spelling,  "to  visit 
her  with  an  ague,  the  which  has  taken  Her  Grace  every  third 
day  four  times  very  sharp  ").  The  dice  and  cards,  hunting, 
masquerades,  and  feasting,  of  which  More  now  saw  so  much, 
and  for  all  of  which,  according  to  Erasmus,  he  had  a  great 
aversion,  must  have  given  him  less  amusement  than  ignorance 
in  high  places.  The  king  was  fond  of  theological  discussions 
as  well  as  of  dice,  and  More  had  to  take  part  in  these ;  but 
though  His  Majesty  was  willing  to  lose  money  at  cards,  he 
would  not  care  to  be  refuted  in  argument.  He  was  just  then 
maintaining  a  thesis  as  to  whether  laymen  are  bound  to  vocal 
prayer,  and  had  put  his  arguments  on  paper.  Wolsey  had 
taken  the  opposite  side  to  the  king,  but  when  he  saw  the  royal 
logic  in  writing,  he  declared  himself  convinced,  which  much 

*  This  is  the  earliest  mention  I  have  found  of  More  as  privy 
councillor.  The  date  of  his  appointment  is  unknown.  Sir  James 
Mackintosh  says  the  beginning  of  15 16.     This  seems  too  early. 

t  Letters  and  Papers,  ii.  4134. 

1 68  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

pleased  the  conqueror,  and  probably  encouraged  him  a  few 
years  later  to  measure  theological  swords  with  Luther.* 

Henry  VIII.  at  this  period  of  his  life  was  a  most  amiable 
prince.  In  a  letter  to  the  Bishop  of  Rochester  he  is  thus  de- 
scribed by  More  :  "  He  is  so  affable  and  courteous  to  all  men,  that 
each  one  thinks  himself  his  favourite,  even  as  the  citizens'  wives 
imagine  that  Our  Lady's  picture  at  the  tower  smiles  upon  them 
as  they  pray  before  it".t  It  is  not  strange  that  such  a  prince, 
the  evil  parts  of  whose  character  were  as  yet  but  little  developed, 
should  have  been  attracted  strongly  by  a  man  like  More— a 
scholar,  an  orator,  an  accomplished  gentleman — whom  he 
would  prize,  moreover,  as  his  conquest. 

Writing  in  15 19,  Erasmus  draws  a  beautiful  picture  of  More 
as  a  courtier:  "In  serious  matters  no  man's  advice  is  more 
prized,  while  if  the  king  wishes  to  recreate  himself,  no  man's 
conversation  is  gayer.  Often  there  are  deep  and  intricate 
matters  that  demand  a  grave  and  prudent  judge.  More  un- 
ravels them  in  such  a  way  that  he  satisfies  both  sides.  No  one, 
however,  has  ever  prevailed  on  him  to  receive  a  gift  for  his 
decision.  Happy  the  commonwealth  where  kings  appoint  such 
officials  !  His  elevation  has  brought  with  it  no  pride.  iVmidst 
all  the  weight  of  state  affairs  he  remembers  the  humble  friends 
of  old,  and  from  time  to  time  returns  to  his  beloved  literature. 
Whatever  influence  he  has  acquired  by  his  dignity,  whatever 
favour  he  enjoys  with  his  opulent  king,  he  uses  for  the  good 
of  the  state  and  for  the  assistance  of  his  friends.  He  was  ever 
desirous  of  conferring  benefits,  and  wonderfully  prone  to  com- 

*  Letter  of  Pace  to  Wolsey,  22nd  June,  1518.  It  is  strange  that 
Mr.  Brewer  should  imagine  that  this  letter  can  refer  to  a  first  sketch  of  the 
king's  book  against  Luther.  Erasmus  tells  us  the  subject  of  this  first 
book  of  Henry  [Epist.  418).  Luther's  book  on  the  Babylonian 
captivity,  to  which  Henry  replied,  did  not  appear  till  two  years  after 
this  letter  of  Pace's. 

t  A  "  picture"  in  the  language  of  those  days  often  meant  a  painted 
statue  or  image. 


passion.  This  disposition  has  grown  with  his  power  of  indul- 
ging it.  Some  he  assists  with  money,  others  he  protects  by  his 
authority,  others  he  advances  by  his  recommendation.  If  he 
can  help  in  no  other  way,  he  does  it  by  his  counsels  ;  he  sends 
no  one  away  dejected.  Vou  would  say  that  he  had  been  ap- 
pointed the  public  guardian  of  all  those  in  need."  * 

Several  casual  illustrations  occur  here  and  there  in  state 
papers  of  the  truth  of  this  beautiful  picture  drawn  by  a  devoted 
friend.  One  of  the  first  duties  of  a  councillor  is  secrecy.  On 
the  1 8th  September,  15 18,  the  Venetian  ambassador  writes  to 
the  Doge  that,  in  a  visit  he  had  made  to  the  king  at  Eltham 
he  had  "  contrived  a  conference  with  Thomas  More,  newly 
made  councillor,  who  was  a  great  friend  of  his,  but  he  could 
learn  nothing  from  him,  as  the  Cardinal  of  York,  according  to 
him,  alone  transacted  the  business  with  the  French  ambas- 
sador," etc.  t  So  also  three  years  later  a  great  ecclesiastic, 
who  had  thought  by  acts  of  courtesy  to  draw  some  secret 
intelligence  from  More,  writes  that  he  failed  to  get  "  the 
slightest  hint  ".  :|: 

Of  his  disposition  to  act  as  peace-maker,  we  have  an 
instance  in  a  letter  of  Sir  Arthur  Poole.  That  gentleman 
says  that  when  he  complained  to  the  king  how  unjustly  he 
had  been  handled  by  the  Earl  of  Arundel,  he  was  greatly 
miscontent,  and  told  him  to  speak  to  Mr.   More,  the  secretary, 

*  Letter  to  Hutten.  After  describing  More's  piety  and  other  virtues, 
Erasmus  exclaims:  "Ac  talis  Morus  est  etiam  in  aula,  et  postea  sunt  qui 
putent  Christianos  non  inveniri  nisi  in  monasteriis,"  which  was  a  sop  to 
Hutten,  who  hated  monks.  Then  of  Henry  :  "  Hos  habet  arbitros  ac 
testes  perpetuos  vitai  sua;  ".  As  the  Duke  of  Richmond,  Henry's  natural 
son,  was  already  born,  and  acknowledged  by  his  father,  it  was  rather 
bold  to  prove  the  king  immaculate  because  of  the  presence  of  men  like 
More  in  his  court.  As  yet,  howe\er,  the  court  was  comparatively 

t  Venetian  State  Papers,  ii.  1072. 
41  See  infra,  p.  190. 

lyo  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

to  devise  a  sharp  letter  to  him  ;  but  More  thought  it  better 
to  send  him  a  loving  letter  first.  * 

To  form  some  conception  of  the  variety  of  duties  that  now 
fell  to  More's  lot,  it  will  be  best  to  follow  him  in  the  first  years 
of  his  court  life.  He  travelled  with  the  king,  who  was  fond 
of  moving  from  place  to  place,  especially  when  flying  from  the 
terrible  sweating  sickness.  In  the  spring  of  15 18  the  court 
was  at  Abingdon,  near  Oxford.  More  soon  found  that  to  live 
under  a  monarch's  roof  did  not  exempt  him  from  the  petty 
troubles  of  life.  His  friend  and  co-secretary.  Pace,  writes  to 
Wolsey  on  April  ist :  "  Dr.  Clark  and  Mr.  More  desire  Your 
Grace  to  write  to  my  Lord  Steward  that  they  may  have  their 
daily  allowance  of  meat  which  has  been  granted  them  by  the 
king.  Here  is  such  bribery  that  they  be  compelled  to  buy 
meat  in  the  town  for  their  servants,  which  is  to  them  intoler- 
able, and  to  the  king's  grace  dishonourable."  t 

The  under-sheriff  now  found  himself  suddenly  transformed 
into  a  sanitary  official.  The  court  had  moved  to  Woodstock 
on  17th  April,  but  More  remained  at  Oxford  to  take  measures 
against  the  plague.  He  shut  up  infected  houses,  and  had 
them  marked  by  wisps  of  hay  ;  those  serving  the  sick,  if 
obliged  to  go  out,   had  to  carry  white  rods.;|: 

Proximity  to  Oxford  involved  him  in  another  plague,  though 
somewhat  more  congenial,  for  a  controversy  was  raging  there 
about  the  study  of  his  favourite  Greek,  and  he  had  to 
intervene.  Erasmus  has  related  some  incidents  in  his  amusing 
style.  His  letter  is  no  doubt  an  echo  of  one  from  More  or 
from    Pace,    which    has    not    been    preserved.     "  England," 

*  Letters  and  Papers,  iii.  2636  (24th  Oct.,  1522). 

t  lb.,  ii.  4055.  There  is  frequent  mention  of  More's  liveries,  as 
they  are  called,  i.e.,  breakfasts,  dinners,  etc.,  in  the  Royal  Accounts. 
At  the  beginning  of  1526  an  attempt  was  made  to  remedy  abuses,  and 
minute  regulations  were  drawn  up  {lb.,  iv.  1939).  Sed  qnis  eiistodiet 
ipsos  ciistodes  ? 

Xlb.,  4125. 


writes  Erasmus,  "  has  two  universities,  Cambridge  and 
Oxford,  both  of  good  renown.  Greek  literature  is  taught 
in  both,  but  in  Cambridge  quietly,  because  its  chancellor 
is  John  Fisher,  Bishop  of  Rochester,  a  man  as  theological 
in  life  as  in  erudition.  At  Oxford,  where  there  is  a  young 
professor  of  Greek  of  no  ordinary  learning,  *  a  barbarous 
preacher  furiously  attacked  the  study  of  Greek  in  a  public 
sermon.  But  the  king,  who  was  in  the  neighbourhood, 
and  who  is  both  well  instructed,  and  a  patron  of  letters, 
having  heard  of  the  affair  from  Pace  and  More,  gave  orders 
that  the  study  should  be  encouraged.  Again,  a  theologian 
who  had  to  preach  in  the  presence  of  the  king,  began 
stupidly  and  impudently  to  attack  Greek  studies,  and  the 
new  interpreters  (of  scripture).  Pace  looked  at  the  king 
to  see  how  he  took  it.  The  king  replied  by  a  smile.  When 
the  sermon  was  ended  the  theologian  was  called.  More 
was  appointed  to  defend  Greek,  and  the  king  was  himself 
present  at  the  discussion.  After  More,  with  much  eloquence, 
had  made  a  long  defence,  and  the  reply  of  the  theologian 
was  expected,  instead  of  speaking  he  suddenly  went  on  his 
knees  before  the  king  and  asked  pardon,  affirming,  however, 
in  his  excuse,  that  while  preaching  he  had  felt  himself  inspired 
to  say  what  he  did  against  Greek.  '  The  spirit  which  inspired 
you,'  replied  the  king,  '  was  certainly  not  that  of  Christ,  but 
rather  the  spirit  of  folly.'  Then  he  asked  him  whether  he  had 
read  any  of  the  writings  of  Erasmus,  since  the  king  perceived 
that  he  had  been  girding  at  me.  He  said  that  he  had  not. 
*Then  you  clearly  prove  your  folly,'  said  the  king,  'since 
you  condemn  what  you  have  not  read.'  '  U^ell,  I  have  read 
one  thing,  called  Moria^'  replied  the  theologian.  '  May  it 
please  Your  Highness,'  interposed  Pace,  'his  argument  well 
befits  that  book.'  Meanwhile  the  theologian  hits  on  a  train 
of  reasoning  to   mitigate   his  blunder.     '  I   am  not  altogether 

*  This  was  John  Clements,  More's  protege. 

172  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

opposed  to  Greek,'  he  says,  'since  it  is  derived  from  the 
Hebrew.'  The  king,  astonished  at  the  man's  folly,  dismissed 
him,  but  forbade  him  ever  again  to  preach  at  court."  * 

In  this  letter  Erasmus  mentions  two  sermons  and  two 
preachers.  To  the  sermon  delivered  at  Oxford  he  merely 
alludes,  perhaps  he  did  not  know  the  details  of  the  affair. 
The  sermon  was  the  occasion  of  a  very  important  Latin  letter 
addressed  by  More  to  the  university.  A  fragment  of  it  is  given 
by  Stapleton,  who  calls  it  hiaile?ita  oraiio^  a  brilliant  address. 
He  tells  us  also  that  it  w^as  translated  by  one  of  More's 
daughters  into  English,  and  the  English  version  again  turned 
into  Latin  by  another  daughter.t  That  English  translation 
has  not  been  preserved,  but  I  will  give  the  reader  the  substance 
of  the  original,  which  has  been  printed  in  Latin  more  than 
once.  :|: 

The  letter,  as  will  be  seen,  contains  some  very  severe 
rebuke,  addressed  not  to  the  university  (except  indirectly)  but 
to  the  preacher,  and  w^ould  doubtless  have  raised  some  clamour 
at  a  layman  taking  on  himself  the  office  of  a  bishop,  had  it  not 
been  known  that  More  was  really  writing  in  the  name  of  the 
king,  not  in  his  own. 

"He  begins  by  apologising  for  his  insufficiency  and  boldness 
in  addressing  so  illustrious  an  academy.  Whatever  learning  he 
has  he  owes  to  Oxford,  and  he  would  rather  incur  the  reproach 
of  arrogance,  than  of  ingratitude  in  keeping  silence  w^hen  tlie 
interests  of  the  university  are  at  stake.     When  in  London  he 

*  Epist.  Erasiii.  380.  The  letter  is,  as  usual,  wrongly  dated  by  the 
editor,  viz.,  1519  instead  of  1518. 

t  Vita  Mori,  cap.  4  et  cap.  10. 

:J:  At  Oxford  by  John  Lichfield  in  1633,  and  in  the  appendix  to  Jortin's 
Erasmus  in  1760.  The  title,  in  which  More  is  called  Eqiics  aitratiis,  does 
not  belong  to  the  original,  and  the  date  is  wrongly  given  as  1519.  It 
should  be  15 18.  Most  unaccountably  Sir  James  Mackintosh  supposes 
More's  letter  to  have  been  written  by  him  in  1497,  in  which  year  he 
places  him  as  a  student  in  Oxford. 


had  heard  of  a  faction  at  Oxford  calling  themselves  Trojans, 
either  out  of  hatred  of  Greek  studies  or  from  love  of  fun. 
The  leader  was  said  to  be  called  Priam,  another  was  Hector,  a 
third  Paris,  and  so  on.  These  Trojans  were  accustomed  to 
jeer  at  and  otherwise  molest  all  the  students  of  Greek.  He 
had  thought  these  were  merely  the  regrettable  follies  of  young 
men  ;  but  since  he  had  accompanied  the  king  to  Abingdon,  he 
has  found  that  the  folly  is  growing  into  madness,  and  that  one 
of  these  Trojans,  a  man,  wise  in  his  own  esteem  and  merry  in 
the  judgment  of  others,  but  who  must  be  counted  insane  by 
all  who  consider  his  conduct,  has  in  a  public  sermon,  in  the 
sacred  time  of  Lent,  raved  not  only  against  Greek  literature 
and  Latin  culture,  but  most  liberally  against  all  liberal  arts. 
And,  that  all  might  be  of  a  piece,  he  did  not  comment  on  a 
complete  passage  of  Holy  Scripture,  after  the  manner  of  the 
ancients,  nor  take  a  Scripture  text  after  the  modern  custom,  but 
took  for  his  texts  some  old  women's  proverbs  in  English.  He 
is  sure  the  hearers  must  have  been  deeply  offended,  since  who 
could  have  a  spark  of  Christian  feeling  in  his  breast,  and  not 
lament  to  see  the  majesty  of  the  preacher's  office,  which  had 
gained  the  world  to  Christ,  degraded  by  one  whose  duty  it 
was  to  adorn  and  guard  it  ?  What  greater  infamy  could  be 
offered  to  the  function  of  the  preacher,  than  that  the  preacher 
himself,  in  the  holiest  time  of  the  year,  before  a  great  assembly 
of  Christian  men,  in  the  very  temple  of  God,  from  a  lofiy 
pulpit  as  from  the  throne  of  Christ,  in  the  presence  of  the 
venerable  Body  of  Christ,  should  turn  a  Lenten  sermon  into  a 
Bacchanalian  farce  ?  As  to  his  attack  on  all  secular  studies,  if 
the  good  man  had  long  withdrawn  from  the  world  and  spent 
years  in  the  desert,  and  suddenly  coming  from  his  solitude  had 
urged  his  hearers  to  give  themselves  to  watching,  prayer  and 
fasting,  saying  that  by  such  means  only  could  they  gain 
heaven,  and  that  all  the  rest  was  but  trifling;  that  the 
study  of  literature  was  the  forging  of  fetters,  and  that 
the    rude    and  unlearned  fly    to    heaven    unhindered ;    from 

174  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

such  a  preacher  such  a  sermon  might  have  been  endured.  His 
simpHcity  might  have  gained  him  pardon,  some  kind  hearers 
might  have  called  it  sanctity,  and  even  those  who  liked  it  least 
might  have  excused  it  as  piety  and  devotion.  But  here  they 
see  a  man  ascend  the  pulpit  elegantly  dressed  with  a  furred 
mantle,  and  the  insignia  of  a  man  of  learning,  and  there,  in  the 
midst  of  a  university  to  which  no  one  comes  except  for  the  sake 
of  learning,  openly  rail  against  almost  every  kind  of  literature. 
Who  can  deem  this  anything  but  mere  malice  and  envy?  How 
came  it  into  his  head  to  preach  about  the  Latin  tongue,  of 
which  he  knows  but  little  ;  or  the  liberal  sciences,  of  which  he 
knows  still  less;  or  about  Greek,  of  which  he  does  not  under- 
stand an  iota?  Had  he  not  matter  enough  in  the  seven  capital 
sins — matter,  too,  in  which  he  is  better  skilled?  Since  he  is 
so  disposed  that  he  prefers  to  blame  what  he  is  ignorant  of 
rather  than  to  learn,  is  not  this  sloth  ?  Since  he  calumniates 
those  w^ho  happen  to  know  what  he  is  prevented  from  knowing 
either  by  his  indolence  or  his  incapacity,  is  not  this  envy  ? 
Since  he  would  have  no  science  esteemed  except  w^hat  he 
falsely  fancies  himself  to  possess,  and  vaunts  his  ignorance 
rather  than  his  science,  is  not  this  the  height  of  pride  ?  We 
all  know,  forsooth,  that  without  secular  literature  a  man  can 
save  his  soul ;  yet  even  secular  learning,  as  he  calls  it,  prepares 
the  mind  for  virtue.  In  any  case  it  is  for  learning,  and  for 
learning  alone,  men  come  to  Oxford ;  for  every  good  woman 
could  teach  her  child  at  home  rude  and  unlettered  virtue.  Nor 
do  all  come  to  the  university  to  learn  theology  ;  some  study 
law,  and  others  seek  the  knowledge  of  human  affairs,  a  matter 
so  useful  even  to  a  theologian,  that  without  it  he  may  perhaps 
sing  pleasantly  to  himself,  but  will  certainly  not  sing  agreeably 
to  the  people.  And  this  knowledge  can  nowhere  be  drawn  so 
abundantly  as  from  the  poets,  orators,  and  historians.  There 
are  even  some  who  make  the  knowledge  of  things  natural  a 
road  to  heavenly  contemplation,  and  so  pass  from  philosophy 
and    the  liberal  arts — which  this  man    condemns  under    the 


general  name  of  secular  literature— to  theology,  despoiling  the 
women  of  Egypt  to  adorn  the  queen.  And  as  regards  theology 
itself,  which  alone  he  seems  to  approve,  if  indeed  he  approves 
even  that,  I  do  not  see  how  he  can  attain  it  without 
the  knowledge  of  language,  either  Hebrew,  Greek,  or  Latin, 
unless,  indeed,  in  his  fondness  for  English  tales  he  has  per- 
suaded himself  that  he  will  find  it  in  such  collections.  Or 
perhaps  he  thinks  that  the  whole  of  theology  is  comprised  in 
the  limits  of  those  questions  on  which  such  as  he  are  always 
disputing,  for  the  knowledge  of  which  it  must  be  admitted  that 
little  enough  Latin  is  wanted. 

"  Will  it  be  pretended  that  what  he  condemns  is  not  literature, 
but  the  immoderate  study  of  it  ?  Surely  that  sin  is  not  so  com- 
mon, or  the  rush  of  men  so  headlong  towards  study,  that  they 
need  to  be  held  back  by  a  public  sermon.  We  do  not  hear  of 
many  who  have  advanced  so  far,  but  that,  even  when  they  go 
still  further,  they  will  be  yet  not  half-way  to  the  goal.  But  the 
good  man  had  no  such  moderate  designs,  for  he  openly  called 
the  students  of  Greek  heretics,  the  professors  he  nicknamed  big 
devils,  and  the  disciples  the  devil's  imps.  And  with  this  insane 
fury  he  pointed  at  a  man  by  the  name  of  a  devil  whom  all  knew 
to  be  such  that  the  real  devil  would  be  most  loth  to  see  him 
made  a  preacher.  He  did  not  name  him,  but  all  who  listened 
were  as  sure  whom  he  meant  as  they  were  of  the  madness  of 
the  preacher." 

Of  course  the  Greek  scholar  thus  indicated  was  no  other  than 
More's  friend  Erasmus.  The  writer  then  addresses  the  uni- 
versity, and  points  out  some  of  the  advantages  of  the  study  of 
(keek,  as  he  had  done  in  his  letter  to  Dorpius.  He  stimulates 
the  authorities  by  the  example  of  Cambridge,  "to  which  you 
have  hitherto  always  served  as  model  {cui vos prcelucere se?nper  con- 
suevistis),  where  there  is  now  such  zeal  for  Greek,  that  even 
those  who  do  not  study  it  themselves,  generously  contribute  to 
maintain  its  professors". 

"  In  conclusion,"  he  says  "  that  he  has  written,  not  to  instruct 

176  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

the  learned  authorities  in  their  duties,  which  they  understand  far 
better  than  he,  but  to  warn  them  not  to  let  those  factions  grow 
and  bring  disgrace  on  the  university,  lest  their  chancellor,  the 
Archbishop  of  Canterbury  (Warham),  or  the  Cardinal  of  York, 
the  great  patron  of  letters,  should  be  forced  to  intervene;  and, 
lastly — and  here  is  the  point  of  the  whole  letter,  indicating 
from  whom  it  really  emanated — the  learned  and  most  Christian 
king  will  certainly  not  tolerate  that  good  learning  should  decay 
in  a  place  so  favoured  by  himself  and  his  ancestors.  By  re- 
pressing the  factions  of  which  he  has  spoken,  the  authorities  will 
gain  the  favour  of  those  most  reverend  fathers,  and  of  their 
illustrious  prince.  Thomas  More,  from  Abingdon,  the  29th 
March  (15 18)." 

This  letter  was  written  in  Holy  Week.  On  the  very  same 
day  Pace  wrote  from  Abingdon  to  Wolsey  that  "  carding  and 
dicing  were  turned  into  picking  of  arrows  over  the  screen  in 
the  hall  ".*  We  may  imagine  the  smile  of  More  at  this  change 
•of  amusements.  Though  he  was  doubtless  excused  from  feats 
of  archery  he  was  certainly  throwing  arrows,  very  sharp  ones, 
and  with  no  little  effect,  among  some  of  the  old-foshioned  and 
self-satisfied  "  dons  "  of  Oxford. 

By  way  of  contrast  with  the  above,  I  am  glad  to  mention  his 
relations  with  the  sister  university.  Scarcely  had  he  been 
made  knight,  when  his  friend  and  fellow-martyr,  the  Bishop  of 
Rochester,  sent  to  him  a  young  theologian,  whom  he  wished  to 
be  presented  to  the  king.  In  the  letter  of  introduction  Fisher 
says  :  "  Let  some  ray  of  favour  shine  from  the  throne  by  your 
means  upon  our  Cantabrigians,  in  order  to  quicken  and  spur  on 
our  youth  to  the  love  of  good  letters,  by  the  hope  of  sharing  in 
the  liberalities  of  so  flourishing  a  prince.  We  have  but  few 
friends  at  court,  who  are  both  able  and  willing  to  recommend 
our  affairs  to  the  king's  Highness,  and  of  these  few  we  reckon 
you  the  first,  who  hitherto  and  while  in  a  lower  orb  have  ever 

*  Letters  and  Papers,  ii.  4043. 


proved  yourself  our  kind  protector.  Now  that  you  are  assumed 
to  the  equestrian  order,  and  are  so  near  the  king  (on  which  we 
both  congratulate  you  and  rejoice  for  ourselves)  show  how 
much  you  favour  us."  To  this  Sir  Thomas  replied  that  what- 
ever influence  he  had,  though  it  was  but  little,  should  be  at 
their  service.  He  thanked  them  for  the  kind  letters  they  had 
written  to  him.  No  man's  house  opens  more  freely  to  its 
master  than  his  service  and  influence  to  them.* 

There  were  others  besides  More  to  write  the  king's  letters 
both  in  Latin  and  in  English,  but  More  was  a  practised  orator 
in  both  languages,  and  whenever  an  important  or  a  ceremonial 
speech  had  to  be  made,  it  was  allotted  to  him.  In  July,  151 8, 
Cardinal  Laurence  Campeggio  arrived  as  legate  a  latere,  in 
which  commission  Wolsey  had  been  joined  with  him,  to  treat 
of  resistance  to  the  Turk.  +  The  pomp  with  which  he  was 
received  at  Deal  and  brought  to  London  was  no  doubt  of 
Wolsey 's  contrivance.  From  Blackheath  he  was  accompanied 
to  London  by  the  Duke  of  Norfolk,  the  ambassadors  of  other 
powers,  bishops,  lords,  and  gentlemen  in  a  cavalcade  of  2000 
horses.  As  they  drew  near  London  Bridge  the  street  was 
lined  on  both  sides  by  the  clergy  in  copes  of  gold,  with  no  less 
than  60  gold  and  silver  crosses  and  censers.  At  London 
Bridge  two  bishops  presented  him  with  the  relics  to  kiss  amid 
salvos  of  artillery.  The  crafts  began  their  order  at  Gracechurch 
Street,  and  in  Cheapside  he  was  welcomed  by  the  mayor  and 
alderman  and  a  brief  Latin  oration  was  delivered  by  Master 
More.  Thence  he  proceeded  to  St.  Paul's,  and  after  another 
address  by  the  Bishop  of  London  was  led  to  the  altar. 

At  the  beginning  of  June,  1525,  Lorenzo  Orio,  knight, 
arrived  in  England  as  Venetian  ambassador.  The  king  sent 
Lord  Dacre  and  Sir  John  Dauncy  with  a  great  number  of 
horsemen  to  conduct  the  envoy  to  Windsor.     On  the  6th  of 

*  Stapleton,  cap.  5. 

t  Ten  years  later  they  were  again  united  in  the  matter  of  the  divorce. 


lyS  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

June,  the  king  received  him  in  state  with  the  cardinal,  the 
Dukes  of  Norfolk  and  Suffolk,  the  Marquis  of  Dorset,  and 
nearly  all  the  knights  of  the  garter.  After  he  had  presented 
his  credentials  and  made  his  speech,  "  Sir  Thomas  More,  a 
man  of  singular  and  rare  learning,  and  in  great  favour  with  the 
king  and  cardinal" — such  is  Orio's  report  to  the  Doge  and 
Signory — "  returned  thanks  to  the  State  ".  The  public  cere- 
mony being  ended,  they  went  to  jMass,  no  doubt  in  St.  George's 
Chapel,  after  which  the  envoy  dined  with  the  cardinal,  who 
afterwards  took  him  to  the  queen's  chamber,  where  he  was 
received  so  graciously  as  to  surprise  all  the  bystanders  ;  so 
reports  the  gratified  ambassador.  * 

The  year  following  he  had  again  to  address  the  ambassador 
of  Venice.  The  matter  is  thus  related  to  Francis  I.,  by  his 
own  envoys  who  were  present :  "  Last  Sunday  the  Venetian 
ambassador  had  his  first  audience  at  Greenwich.  He  made  a 
fair  oration  full  of  thanks  to  the  king  and  Wolsey,  to  which 
Master  More  made  a  premeditated  reply,  a  draft  of  the  speech 
having  been  given  by  the  ambassador  to  Wolsey  three  days 
before,  at  the  request  of  the  latter.'*  f  From  these  examples 
it  is  clear  that  More  was  the  Latin  orator,  who  had  to  do 
honour  to  the  court  of  Henry,  as  wtII  as  to  second  the 
diplomacy  of  Wolsey.  We  shall  trace  presently  More's  own 
action  in  the  treaties  and  embassies  of  Europe.  He  had 
joined  the  court  in  the  hope  of  urging  the  king  to  the  better 
government  of  his  own  country,  and  it  is  pleasant  to  find  that 
he  was  not  so  disappointed  as  Hythloday  predicted.  Stowe 
gives  an  account  of  a  work  in  which  we  may  trace  the  influence 
of  the  new  councillor.  "  About  this  time,"  he  says,  speaking 
of  the  year  1521,  "the  king  being  moved  by  such  of  his 
council  as  had  regard  to  the  commonwealth  of  this  realm, 
considering  how  for  the  space  of  fifty  years  past  and  more, 

*  Venetian  State  Papers,  iii.  1037. 
f  Letters  and  Papers,  iv.  2638. 


the  nobles  and  gentlemen  of  England  had  been  given  to  grazing 
of  cattle,  and  keeping  of  sheep,  to  the  great  decay  of  husbandry 
and  tillage,"  caused  the  statutes  to  be  put  in  force  against 
unauthorised  inclosures,  and  the  houses  from  which  husband- 
men had  been  evicted  to  be  rebuilt.  More  had  written  strongly 
on  this  subject  in  his  Utopia^  and  there  is  no  doubt  that  these 
measures  were  taken  at  his  suggestion. 



WHEN  More  first  entered  into  court  life,  and  on  the 
career  of  diplomacy,  he  compared  himself,  in  a  letter  to 
Fisher,  to  a  man,  who  not  being  trained  to  ride,  sits  avvk- 
^Yardly  in  his  saddle.  Yet,  if  there  is  one  quality  which  shines 
conspicuously  in  More,  it  is  his  exquisite  tact.  This  enabled 
him  not  merely  to  acquit  himself  well  of  his  duties,  or  to 
ingratiate  himself  with  all  whom  he  met,  but  above  all  to 
keep  his  conscience  upright  and  his  soul  unsullied. 

In  following  him  through  the  remainder  of  the  twelve  years 
spent  in  the  "  king's  service  "  previous  to  the  chancellorship, 
the  State  Papers  recently  arranged  and  edited  will  be  our 
principal  guide,  since  the  information  to  be  derived  from  his 
biographers  is  scanty  and  confused.  Throughout  the  whole  of 
that  period,  when  not  absent  on  legations  or  duties  belong- 
ing to  his  various  offices,  he  acted  as  one  of  the  royal  secretaries. 
Wolsey,  on  account  of  his  functions  as  chancellor  had  often  to 
remain  in  Westminster,  when  the  king  was  either  amusing 
himself  or  seeking  purer  air  in  one  of  his  country  houses  ; 
thus  many  letters  passed  between  the  great  minister  and  the 
monarch.  Wolsey's  letters  were  addressed  to  More  and  by 
him  read  to  the  king,  who  gave  to  More  the  substance  of  his 
answer.  The  first  volume  of  the  large  collection  of  State 
Papers  of  Henry    VIII.^  contains   a  considerable  number  of 

*  In  eleven  volumes,  printed  between  1830  and  1852.  These  are  not 
to  be  confounded  with  the  Letters  and  Papers  of  Henry  VIII.,  still  in 
course  of  publication.  The  latter  cover  a  much  wider  field,  but  give  in 
many  cases  a  mere  precis  or  abridgment  of  documents,  especially 
of  those  already  printed  in  full  in  the  State  Papers. 


such  letters,  and  others  have  been  printed  by  Sir  Henry  EUis  ; 
but  as  in  these  More  is  merely  a  secretary,  his  personal  action 
and  character  are  but  slightly  and  indirectly  illustrated  by  them. 

The  addresses  of  these  letters  show  the  restlessness  of  the 
king.  They  are  dated  from  Greenwich,  Hampton  Court, 
Woodstock,  Abingdon,  Wallingford,  "The  More"  (in  Hert- 
fordshire), Oking  (or  Woking)  in  Surrey,  New  Hall  (in  Essex), 
Windsor  and  East  Hampstead  (near  Windsor),  Guildford,  etc. 
This  change  of  residence  of  course  involved  More's  frequent 
absence  from  his  home,  and  led  to  that  correspondence  with  his 
children,  some  of  which  we  have  seen. 

It  was  his  duty  also  to  accompany  the  king  on  more  solemn 
progresses.  His  name  appears  in  the  list  of  gentlemen  from 
the  county  of  Middlesex  who  were  appointed  to  wait  on  the  king 
and  queen  at  the  famous  meeting  with  Francis  I.  between  Calais 
and  Boulogne  in  June,  1520,  which  from  its  gorgeous  preparations 
was  called  the  meeting  of  the  Field  of  the  Cloth  of  Gold.* 
There  was  little  sincerity  in  this  great  show,  unless  the  rivalry  in 
magnificence  betrayed  its  real  character.  At  the  same  time 
counter  negotiations  were  being  carried  on  with  the  young 
emperor  Charles  V.  More  was  one  of  the  commissioners  for 
the  renewal  of  a  treaty  of  commerce  with  the  emperor,  which 
was  solemnly  sworn  to  and  subscribed  on  12th  April  in  the 
chapel  at  Greenwich ;  at  which  time  also  a  meeting  was 
arranged  between  Henry  and  Charles. f  This  was  to  have  taken 
place  at  Gravelines  and  Calais,  after  the  interview  with  Francis  ; 
but,  taking  advantage  of  a  favourable  wind,  the  emperor  sailed 
for  England  in  May,  and  managed  to  anticipate  his  rival.  On 
26th  May,  1520,  the  vigil  of  Pentecost,  More  writes  to  Erasmus 
from  Canterbury  :  "  The  emperor  is  expected  to-day ;  the  king 
will  set  out  to  meet  him  early  in  the  morning,  perhaps  to-night. 
It  is  impossible  to  describe  the  delight  of  the  king,  the  nobles  and 

*  Letters  and  Papers,  iii.  part  ii,  p.  243  (March  1520). 
t  Rymer,  xiii.  714.     Litters  and  Papers,  iii.  798,  804. 

162  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

even  the  people,  when  the  message  arrived  that  the  emperor 
was  on  his  way  to  England,"*  Charles  landed  at  Hithe  with 
the  Queen  of  Aragon  and  many  noblemen  and  ladies.  They 
were  met  by  Wolsey  and  conducted  to  Dover  Castle,  which 
they  reached  at  lo  p.m.  At  2  a.m.  on  the  morning  of  Whit- 
sunday the  king  arrived  at  Dover,  and  the  emperor  arose  to  meet 
him.  Early  in  the  morning  they  rode  to  Canterbury  to  keep 
the  feast,  and  were  received  in  great  state  by  Cardinal  Wolsey 
and  the  Archbishop  (Warham).  The  emperor  and  king 
walked  together,  under  one  canopy,  to  the  shrine  of  St. 
Thomas  (w^hich  Henry  was  one  day  to  plunder),  and  thence  to 
the  palace,  where  the  emperor  embraced  his  aunt,  Queen 
Catharine  (whom  the  king  was  one  day  to  repudiate).  At  the 
High  Mass  the  emperor  offered  first,  then  the  king.  Of  course 
there  was  great  banqueting.  On  Tuesday  the  sovereigns  rode 
towards  Dover,  and  Charles  re-embarked  at  Sandwich. 

This  was  only  the  beginning  of  the  pageants  in  which  More 
had  to  play  his  part.  On  Thursday  the  king  and  queen,  with 
their  immense  train  of  4334  persons  and  1637  horses,  passed 
over  to  Calais.  The  great  festivities  lasted  from  the  4th  to 
the  25th  June,  but  need  not  be  here  described.  Have  they 
not  been  made  famous  by  Shakespeare  ? 

To-day,  the  French 
All  clinquant,  all  in  gold,  like  heathen  gods, 
Shone  down  the  English  :  and  to-morrow,  they 
Made  Britain,  India:  every  man  that  stood 
Show'd  like  a  mine. 

What  followed  is  less  known.  The  emperor  was  waiting  for 
the  king  of  England  at  Gravelines,  and  after  taking  leave  of 
Francis,  Henry  made  his  return  visit  to  his  imperial  nephew 
on  the  loth  July.  When  the  emperor  next  day  rode  with  the 
king  to  Calais,  all  the  lords  and  estates  of  England  vacated 
their  lodgings  to  give  hospitality  to  the  Spaniards  and  Flemings. 

*  Inter.  Epist.  Erasm.  433.     The  date  is  wrongly  given  by  the  editor. 


A  marvellous  banqueting  house  had  been  prepared ;  on  the 
ceiling  were  painted  the  heavens,  with  sun,  moon,  stars,  and 
clouds,  and  images  of  wickerwork,  covered  with  painted  canvas, 
represented  men  of  every  nation,  with  "reasons"  or  inscrip- 
tions in  various  languages.  It  is  probable  enough  that  the 
learning  of  More  had  been  enlisted  in  this  pageantry.  But, 
alas  I  when  all  the  preparations  were  complete  for  the  most 
splendid  banquet  ever  given  since  the  days  of  the  Caesars, 
"the  wind  began  to  rise,"  says  Stowe,  "and  increasing  to  the 
evening,  it  then  on  a  sudden  blew  off  the  canvas  heavens  with 
the  planets,  and  blew  out  more  than  looo  torches  of  wax". 
However,  on  the  12th,  amid  new  festivities,  were  solemnly 
read  "all  the  articles  of  the  league  tripartite,"  between  the 
emperor  and  the  kings  of  France  and  England ;  the  emperor 
returned  to  Gravelines,  and  Henry  to  Dover. 

We  may  safely  gather  the  thoughts  of  More,  during  the 
silly  and  wasteful  extravagance  of  those  months  from  what  he 
had  written,  four  years  previously,  in  his  Utopia^  where  he  had 
quaintly  jested  on  the  use  of  the  precious  metals  and  of  jewels, 
as  follows  : — 

"  The  folly  of  men  has  enhanced  the  value  of  gold  and 
silver  because  of  their  scarcity ;  whereas,  on  the  contrary,  it  is 
the  opinion  of  the  Utopians  that  nature,  as  an  indulgent 
parent,  has  freely  given  us  all  the  best  things  in  great  abun- 
dance, such  as  air,  water,  and  earth,  but  has  laid  up  and  hid 
from  us  the  things  that  are  vain  and  useless. 

"To  teach  disdain  for  gold  they  have  fallen  upon  an  expedient 
which,  as  it  agrees  with  their  other  policy,  so  is  it  very  differ- 
ent from  ours,  and  will  scarce  gain  belief  among  us  who  value 
gold  so  much,  and  lay  it  up  so  carefully.  They  eat  and  drink 
out  of  vessels  of  earth  and  glass,  which  makes  an  agreeable 
appearance,  though  formed  of  britde  materials  ;  while  they 
make  their  vilest  utensils  of  gold  and  silver,  and  that  not  only 
in  their  public  halls  but  in  their  private  houses.  Of  the  same 
metals  they  likewise  make  chains  and  fetters  for  their  slaves, 

184  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

to  some  of  whom,  as  a  badge  of  infamy,  they  hang  an  ear-ring 
of  gold,  and  make  others  wear  a  ring,  a  chain,  or  a  coronet  of 
the  same  metal ;  and  thus  they  take  care  by  all  possible  means 
to  render  gold  and  silver  of  no  esteem.  They  find  pearls  on 
their  coasts,  and  diamonds  and  carbuncles  on  their  rocks ; 
they  do  not  look  after  them,  but,  if  they  find  them  by  chance, 
they  polish  them,  and  with  them  they  adorn  their  children, 
who  are  delighted  with  them,  and  glory  in  them  during  their 
childhood ;  but  when  they  grow  to  years,  and  see  that  none 
but  children  use  such  baubles,  they  of  their  own  accord, 
without  by  their  parents,  lay  them  aside,  and  would 
be  as  much  ashamed  to  use  them  afterwards  as  children  among 
us,  when  they  come  to  years,  are  of  their  puppets  and  other 

There  is  also  a  clear  reminiscence  of  the  Field  of  Cloth  of 
Gold  in  the  answer  which  More  made  to  Luther's  declaration, 
that  he  would  like  to  throw  all  the  relics  of  the  true  Cross  where 
the  sun  would  never  shine  on  them,  and  give  their  golden 
reliquaries  to  the  poor.  Among  other  things  More  answers  : 
"  How  small  a  portion  were  the  gold  about  all  the  pieces  of 
Christ's  Cross,  if  it  were  compared  with  the  gold  that  is  quite 
cast  away  about  the  gilding  of  knives,  swords,  spurs,  arras  and 
painted  cloths ;  and  as  though  these  things  could  not  consume 
gold  fast  enough,  the  gilding  of  posts  and  whole  roses,  not 
only  in  the  palaces  of  princes  and  great  prelates,  but  also 
many  right  mean  men's  houses  !  And  yet  among  all  these 
things  could  Luther  spy  no  gold  that  grievously  glittered  in  his 
bleared  eyes,  but  only  about  the  Cross  of  Christ."  * 

It  is  amusing  that  the  writer  of  all  this  should  have  been 
made  a  knight,  or  as  he  was  then  called,  Eqties  auratus^  "  a 
gilded  knight,"  because  this  dignity  both  entitled  him  and 
required  of  him  to  wear  golden  insignia,  and  to  deck  with 
gold  the  trappings   of  his  horse,  I    and  that  he  should  generally 

*  English  Works,  p.  iig. 

t  Selden's  Titles  of  Honour,  p.  437. 


be  represented  as  wearing  round  his  neck  one  of  those  massive 
gold  chains,  which  he  made  the  badge  of  notorious  malefactors 
among  his  Utopians. 

While  at  Calais  More  had  the  great  pleasure  of  meeting  again 
his  dear  Erasmus,*  and  of  being  introduced  by  him  to  other 
learned  men,  among  others  to  William  Budee,  the  French 
king's  secretary,  and  to  Francis  Cranefeld,  councillor  of  the 
empire.  To  Budee,  More  wrote  some  weeks  after:  "I  know 
not,  my  dear  Budee,  whether  it  is  not  better  never  to  possess 
what  becomes  very  near  to  our  hearts,  unless  we  can  afterwards 
retain  it.  The  reading  of  your  works  had  created  a  beautiful 
image  of  you  in  my  mind  before  we  met,  and  I  counted  myself 
happy  if  I  should  ever  behold  you  in  reality.  When  my  wish 
was  at  last  fulfilled,  I  was  happier  than  happiness  itself.  But 
ala^  !  our  duties  prevented  us  from  meeting  often  enough  to 
satisfy  my  desire  of  conversing  with  you,  and  in  a  few  days,  as 
our  kings  were  obliged  to  separate,  our  intercourse  was  broken 
off  when  it  had  scarce  begun,  and  we  were  torn  away  perhaps 
never  to  meet  again."  He  trusts  that  they  may  continue  their 
friendship  by  frequent  correspondence.  In  another  letter  he 
tells  him  that,  among  various  things  that  rendered  him  so  dear, 
one  was  that  erudition,  formerly  the  prerogative  of  the  clergy, 
Avas  now  seen  in  the  highest  degree  in  a  married  man.l-  It  is 
to  be  regretted  that  the  whole  correspondence  between  these 
two  learned  statesmen  is  not  extant.  When  Budee  was  collect- 
ing his  own  letters  for  publication,  he  wished  to  include  those 
received  from  More,  but  the  latter  demurred,  as  he  had  not 
written  with  the  thought  of  publicity,  and  wished  to  re-examine 
them.     Thus  they  were  not  printed.     Budee  mentions  presents 

*  Letters  of  Erasmus,  496,  509. 

t  Tam  incomparabilis  eruditio,  qu^e  peculiaris  olim  cleri  gloria  fuerat, 
tibi  feliciter  obtigit  uxorato  ;  nam  KaiKhu  appellare  non  sustineo,  tam 
multis,  tam  egregiis  dotibus,  tam  alte  subvectum  supra  AaoV  (Apud 
Stapleton,  cap.  5). 

1 86  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

received  from  More  of  English  dogs,  of  which  he  seems  to  have 
been  glad  to  dispose  very  quickly  to  others.  * 

Francis  Cranefeld  wrote  to  Erasmus  from  Bruges,  thanking 
him  for  having  introduced  him  to  More.  After  Erasmus's 
departure  they  had  conceived  a  great  friendship  for  each  other, 
and  Cranefeld  had  been  delighted  with  More's  urbanity.  More 
had  given  his  wife  a  gold  ring  with  an  English  inscription,  and 
to  himself  some  ancient  coins,  one  of  gold,  and  another  of 
silver,  one  having  the  effigy  of  Tiberius,  the  other  of  Augustus. 
More  also  wrote  to  Erasmus,  to  tell  the  pleasure  he  had  found 
in  Cranefeld's  company.t 

There  was  one  jarring  note  in  all  this  harmony — a  literary 
controversy,  the  details  of  which  occupy  a  considerable  space 
in  More's  Latin  works  and  the  letters  of  Erasmus ;  but,  while 
it  cannot  be  altogether  passed  over  in  a  Life  of  More ^  it  will  be 
sufficient  to  give  it  in  mere  outline.  During  the  war  between 
France  and  England  in  15 12,  there  had  been  a  great  naval 
contest,  in  which  a  large  French  ship,  named  the  "  Cordelier  " 
(Chordigera),  being  already  on  fire,  had  borne  down  on  a  great 
English  ship,  grappled  with  it,  and  involved  it  in  its  own  fate. 
A  Frenchman,  named  Germain  Ue  Brie  (Brixius),  wrote  some 
verses  in  glorification  of  this  feat.  Against  the  "  Chordigera  "  of 
De  Brie  More  composed  some  sharp  epigrams,  which  had 
been  circulated  in  MS.  When  it  was  proposed  to  publish  a 
collection  of  his  epigrams  in  15 17,  More  had  suggested  to 
Erasmus  and  the  friends  who  were  superintending  this  publica- 
tion on  the  continent,  the  propriety  of  omitting  these  anti- 
French  verses,  now  that  peace  was  established.  %  They, 
however,  decided  to  print  them.  The  anger  of  De  Brie  was 
aroused,  and  he  composed  a  satirical  poem,  which  he  called 
"Antimorus,"  in  which  he  did  his  best  to  turn  all  More's  epigrams 

*  Letters  given  by  Brewer.     Letters  and  Papers,  iii,  413. 

t  Inter.  Epist.  Erasm.,  532,  550. 

;  lb.,  i-j^  (in  App.)  (3rd  Sept.  1517). 


into  ridicule.  Erasmus,  who  was  a  friend  of  both,  intervened 
to  prevent  the  publication  of  l)e  Erie's  poem,  and  when  his 
efforts  were  unsuccessful,  to  prevent  More  from  retaliating. 

To  De  Brie,  Erasmus  complains  of  his  acerbities,  and  tells  him 
that  More  stands  too  high  in  general  estimation  for  him  to  in- 
jure— that  if  More  wrote  somewhat  against  France,  it  was  during 
the  war.  Why,  then,  make  quarrels  now  in  time  of  peace  ? 
More  has  not  published  but  merely  allowed  the  publication  of 
his  epigrams,  if  others  would  superintend  it.*  To  More  he 
wrote  a  soothing  letter,  telling  him  De  Brie  could  do  him  no 
real  harm,  and  that  it  was  more  dignified  to  remain  silent,  f 
More  replied  that  he  had  heard  two  years  ago  that  De  Brie 
was  preparing  his  attack,  and  he  had  intended  writing  to  him 
a  most  friendly  letter,  but  he  had  heard  so  much  about  him 
from  Paris  that  he  saw  it  would  be  in  vain.  Berald,  Lascar, 
Budee,  and  Deloin,  had  all  sought  to  no  purpose  to  prevent 
him  from  publishing  his  book.  In  the  meantime  More  had 
hoped  that,  from  so  long  a  preparation,  something  learned  and 
witty  would  come,  which  he  should  have  enjoyed,  even  though 
the  laugh  was  against  himself  He  found  it,  however,  full  of 
folly  and  venom,  and  had  resolved  not  to  answer  it ;  but  he 
was  overpersuaded  by  friends  to  whom  he  was  wont  to  defer. 
Still,  Erasmus's  wish  has  so  much  force  with  him,  that,  though 
his  answer  is  already  printed,  he  has  bought  it  all  up.  Five 
copies  only  had  been  sold,  when  the  letter  of  Erasmus  came 
to  hand,  and  he  at  once  sto])ped  the  sale.  He  had  sent  a  copy 
to  Erasmus  and  another  to  Peter  Giles,  the  rest  he  would  keep 
until  he  heard  further  from  Erasmus.  He  left  himself  in  his 
hands  as  to  the  publication  or  non-publication  of  the  book. 
"When  we  come  to  Calais,"  he  writes,  "for  which  the  king 
is  about  to  start,  we  will  talk  over  the  matter  more  at  length. 
In  this  meeting  of  the  kings  I  expect  you  and  De  Brie  also ; 

*  Letter  511,  of  25th  June,  1520,  a  letter  very  honourable  to  More  as 
well  as  to  the  writer, 
t  Letter  503. 

155  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

since  the  French  queen  will  be  there,  and  he,  as  her  secretary, 
can  hardly  be  absent.  So  far  as  I  am  concerned  you  can 
easily  arrange  the  matter ;  for  though  without  any  reason  he 
has  so  treated  me,  as  to  show  that  the  only  thing  wanting  to 
him  for  my  destruction  is  ability,  yet  since  you,  Erasmus,  are 
more  than  half  of  myself,  the  fact  that  De  Brie  is  your  friend 
will  weigh  more  with  me  than  that  he  is  my  enemy."  * 

For  some  reason  not  known  to  us,  More  finally  published 
his  book.  Erasmus  wrote  to  Budee,  i6th  February,  1521  : 
"I  fear  the  quarrel  between  De  Brie  and  More  will  grow 
hot,  for  the  letter  of  More,  w^hich  I  think  you  saw  before  More 
showed  it  me  at  Calais  already  printed,  is  so  sharp,  that  I  who 
am  thought  by  some  pretty  mordant,  am  toothless  compared 
with  him  ;  and  yet  he  almost  promised  me  that  he  would 
suppress  it,  if  De  Brie  would  keep  quiet  ".f  There  is  little 
to  interest  us  at  present  in  More's  pamphlet,  except  perhaps 
his  defence  of  what  he  had  written  against  the  avarice  w^hich 
disfigured  the  last  years  of  Henry  VII.  On  the  whole,  the 
temper  of  More  appears  less  to  advantage  in  this  piece  than 
in  any  other  of  his  writings.  The  thought  is  forced  on  us,  as 
we  read  the  Latin  letters,  and  dedications  and  controversies  of 
the  literates  of  the  sixteenth  century,  that  their  mutual  praises 
are  somewhat  boyish,  and  that  they  show  themselves  over 
sensitive  of  their  reputation  as  scholars. 

More  was  not  knighted  at  the  time  he  accompanied  the 
king  to  Calais.  This  dignity  seems  to  have  been  conferred 
on  him  in  the  summer  of  152 1,  about  the  time  he  was  made 
sub-treasurer.  Erasmus  wrote  to  Pace  on  nth  June,  152 1  : 
"  I  hear  that  More  has  been  made  treasurer,  and  that  the  office 
is  as  profitable  as  it  is  honourable.  He  succeeds  so  well  at 
court  that  I  pity  him.  But  I  am  rejoiced  by  the  hope  he 
gives  me  that  I  may  see  him  again  in  August ; "  :|:  and  a  few 

Inter.  Epist.  Erasm.,  553.  fib-,  565. 

t  lb.,  577' 


months  later  he  writes  to  Budee :  "  More  has  been  made 
treasurer.  That  office  in  England  is  most  honourable,  and 
at  the  same  time  neither  very  troublesome  in  itself,  nor 
exposed  to  odium.  He  had  a  rival  candidate,  a  man  who 
was  in  good  favour,  who  was  willing  to  take  the  office,  and 
to  live  at  his  own  expense.  But  the  excellent  king  gave  an 
undoubted  proof  of  his  partiality  for  More,  when,  rather  than 
accept  his  rival's  offer,  he  preferred  to  give  the  office  to  More 
without  his  seeking  it,  and  with  a  salary  besides.  And  not 
satisfied  with  this,  he  has  raised  him  to  the  dignity  of  a 

Erasmus  calls  More  treasurer.  This  office,  however,  was 
always  reserved  for  one  of  the  great  lords ;  and  at  that  time 
was  held  by  the  Duke  of  Norfolk.  More  was  under-treasurer, 
an  office  which  corresponds  in  some  respects  with  that  of 
chancellor  of  the  exchequer  at  the  present  day,  who  is  also 
technically  under-treasurer.+ 

Not  a  year  had  passed  since  the  tripartite  Treaty  was  read 
at  Calais,  before  the  emperor  and  the  king  of  France  were 
again  at  war,  and  Wolsey  again  crossed  the  Channel  to  make 
peace,  or  to  affect  to  do  so,  while  intriguing  in  his  own  king's 
interest.  The  Imperial  and  French  ambassadors  met  him 
at  Calais,  with  the  Papal  Nuncio,  the  ambassadors  of  Naples 
and  Hungary,  and  the  Venetian  envoy  to  England.  The  last 
mentioned,  Antonio  Suriano,  wrote  to  the  Signory  on  July  25, 
152 1,  from  London:  "A  diet  is  being  held  about  certain  dis- 
putes concerning  the  merchants.  This  morning  the  Govern- 
ment sends  thither  Sir  Thomas  More,  Dr.  Sampson,  etc.":|;  He 
was  to  join  the  cardinal  at  Calais  when  his  own  work  at  Bruges 
was  completed.  On  24th  July,  Pace,  the  king's  secretary, 
wrote  to  Wolsey:   "The  king  signifieth  to   Your  Grace  that, 

*  Epist.  Erastii.  605,  Equitis  aurati  dignitatem  adjecit. 
t  Sir  James  Mackintosh  {Life  of  More,  p.  73). 
X  Venetian  State  Papers,  iii.  272. 


whereas  old  men  do  now  decay  greatly  within  this  his  realm, 
his  mind  is  to  acquaint  other  young  men  with  his  great  affairs, 
and,  therefore,  he  desireth  Your  Grace  to  make  Sir  William 
Sandys  and  Sir  Thomas  More  privy  to  all  such  matters  as  Your 
Grace  shall  treat  at  Calais  ".* 

Wolsey,  with  his  great  following,  had  arrived  at  Calais  on  2nd 
August ;  but  as  the  papal  ambassador  had  not  received  the 
necessary  commission  to  sign  the  league  between  the  Pope,  the 
emperor,  and  the  two  kings,  while  a  messenger  was  being 
despatched  to  Rome,  Wolsey  took  advantage  of  the  delay  to 
visit  the  emperor  at  Bruges,  where  he  remained  a  fortnight. 
We  have  a  glimpse  of  Sir  Thomas  in  a  letter  of  Gasparo 
Contarini,  patriarch  of  Venice,  and  at  that  time  ambassador  of 
his  republic  with  Charles  V.  :  "On  coming  away  from  solemn 
Mass  of  the  Holy  Ghost  in  St.  James's  Church  (celebrated  in  the 
presence  of  the  emperor,  the  cardinal,  and  the  resident 
ambassadors),  I  invited  an  English  gentleman,  by  name 
Master  Thomas  More,  a  very  learned  man,  to  dine  with  me. 
He  had  accompanied  Wolsey  to  Bruges.  During  dinner  we 
discussed  the  business  negotiated  with  the  emperor,  but  More 
did  not  drop  the  slightest  hint  of  any  other  treaty  than  that  of 
peace  between  the  king  of  France  and  His  Imperial  Majesty. "t 
More  was  probably  aware  of  what  we  know  now,  that  the  real 
subject  of  the  conferences  was  the  betrothal  of  the  emperor 
to  his  cousin,  the  Princess  Mary  of  England. 

Stapleton  tells  us  X  that  during  their  stay  in  Bruges  some  vain- 
glorious disputant  put  up  a  public  challenge  to  dispute  on  any 
question  in  civil  or  canon  law,  or  matter  of  science  or  literature. 
More  could  not  let  slip  an  opportunity  for  a  joke.  By  way  of 
answer  he  affixed  this  question  from  English  law :  An  averia 
capta  in  zvii/iernaf?iia  sunt  irreplegiabilia  ?  which  is  said  to  mean  : 
"Whether  catdc  taken  in  withernam  be  irrepleviable?''    (Wither- 

*  State  Papers  of  Henry  VIII.  i.   ig. 
t  Venetian  State  Papers,  iii.  302. 
:|:  Vita  Mori,  cap.  13. 


nam  was  a  writ  to  make  reprisals  on  one  who  had  wrongfully 
distrained  another  man's  cattle,  and  driven  them  out  of  the 
county.)  The  document  stated  that  there  was  a  gentleman  in 
the  English  ambassador's  suite  who  was  willing  to  discuss  this 
point  of  law  with  the  challenger.  It  is  unnecessary  to  say  that 
the  doctor  utriusque  juris  could  not  understand  even  the  terms 
of  the  question,  and  got  well  laughed  at  for  his  vanity. 

More  returned  with  Wolsey  to  Calais,  where  negotiations 
were  protracted  until  November  ;  but  in  October  he  was  sent  as 
special  messenger  to  the  king.  Wolsey  wrote  to  the  king  that, 
with  regard  to  certain  matters,  he  had  sent  Sir  Thomas  More, 
the  under-treasurer,  and  Sir  William  Fitzwilliam  :  "to  the  which, 
your  councillors,  it  may  like  your  Grace  not  only  to  give  firm 
credence  in,  but  also  to  give  unto  them  your  gracious  thanks 
for  such  their  laudable  acquittal  and  diligent  attendance  as  they 
have  done  and  taken  in  this  journey  for  the  advancement  of 
your  honour  and  contentation  of  your  pleasure".* 

The  spring  of  1522  renewed  the  splendours  of  152 1,  though 
on  a  different  field.  The  emperor  again  visited  England,  and 
this  time  advanced  not  only  to  Canterbury  but  to  London  and 
Windsor.  Full  descriptions  of  the  festivities  are  found  in  the 
chroniclers,  but  the  mere  fact  that  More  was  present  would  not 
justify  any  detail  here,  f 

In  April,  1523,  a  parliament  was  summoned,  and  by  the 
influence  of  Wolsey,  Sir  Thomas  was  chosen  speaker.  He 
according  to  custom  "  disabled "  himself,  i.e.^  declared  his 
unfitness  for  such  an  ofifice  ;  and  when  his  excuses  were  rejected 

*  State  Papers,  i.  74.  Also,  Letters  and  Papers,  iii.  App.  31.  In 
the  royal  expenses  for  1521  we  find  £80  to  Sir  T.  More,  of  which  £5  was 
a  loan,  and  £j^  for  his  "diets"  when  absent  from  England  with  the 
"  Easterlings,"  at  the  rate  of  20s.  a  day  {Letters,  etc.,  iii.  1775).  On 
8th  May,  1522,  he  had  a  grant  of  the  manor  of  South,  in  Kent,  with  ad- 
vowson,  which  had  come  into  the  king's  hands  by  the  attainder  of  the 
Duke  of  Buckingham  {lb.,  iii.  2239). 

t  Letters  and  Papers^  iii.  2288. 

192  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

by  the  king,  he  went  on  in  a  speech  which  Roper  has  given  at 
length  and  probably  transcribed  from  the  draft  left  of  it  by 
More,  to  demand  the  usual  privileges  of  the  speaker  and  of 
the  commons,  especially  for  the  latter  freedom  of  deliberation. 
Roper  proceeds  to  tell  how  Cardinal  Wolsey  came  down  to  the 
House  of  Commons  in  order  to  urge  them  to  grant  the  subsidy, 
to  which  they  had  shown  reluctance.  The  commons  debated 
whether  it  were  better  to  receive  him  with  a  few  only  of  his 
lords,  or  with  his  whole  train.  The  opinion  of  the  majority 
was  that  his  attendants  should  be  very  few,  but  Sir  Thomas 
thus  addressed  them  :  "  Masters,  forasmuch  as  my  Lord 
Cardinal  lately  laid  to  our  charges  the  lightness  of  our  tongues 
for  things  uttered  out  of  this  house,  it  shall  not  in  my  mind  be 
amiss  to  receive  him  with  all  his  pomp,  with  his  maces,  his 
pillars,  poleaxes,  his  crosses,  his  hat,  and  the  great  seal  too,  to 
the  intent  that  if  he  find  the  like  fault  with  us  hereafter,  we  may 
be  bolder  from  ourselves  to  lay  the  blame  on  those  that  his  Grace 
brought  here  with  him  ".*  This  advice  prevailed,  the  cardinal 
addressed  the  house,  but  in  vain  tried  to  get  a  word  of  answer 
from  anyone,  though  he  appealed  to  some  by  name.  Sir 
Thomas  on  his  knees  excused  this  silence,  saying  that  it  was 
the  ancient  privilege  to  speak  only  by  the  speaker's  mouth,  but 
that  he  could  not  do  this  until  he  had  heard  their  debates. 

"  Whereupon,"  says  Roper,  "  the  cardinal,  displeased  with 
Sir  Thomas  More  that  had  not  in  this  parliament  in  all  things 
satisfied  his  desire,t  suddenly  arose  and  departed,  and,  after 
the  parliament  ended,  in  his  gallery  at  Whitehall  said  to  him  : 
'  Would  God  you  had  been  at  Rome,  Mr.  More,  when  I  made 
you   speaker'.     'Your  Grace  not  offended,   so  would  I  too,' 

*  He  can  scarcely  have  made  so  sarcastic  a  speech  publicly  ;  the  terms 
are  such  as  he  might  have  used  in  private  conversation  when  asked  his 

t  "  The  speaker  of  the  Tudor  reigns,"  writes  Bishop  Stubbs,  "  is  the 
manager  of  business  on  the  part  of  the  crown  "  {Lectures  on  Medieval 
and  Modern  History,  p.  272). 


quoth  Sir  Thomas.  And  to  wind  such  quarrels  out  of  the 
cardinal's  head  he  began  to  talk  of  the  gallery,  saying,  '  I  like 
this  gallery  of  yours  much  better  than  your  gallery  of  Hampton 
Court '.  Wherewith  so  wisely  broke  he  off  the  cardinal's 
displeasant  talk,  that  the  cardinal  at  that  present,  as  it  seemed, 
wist  not  what  more  to  say  to  him.  But  for  the  revengement  of 
his  displeasure  counselled  the  king  to  send  him  ambassador  to 
Spain,  commending  to  his  Highness  his  wisdom,  fitness  and  learn- 
ing for  that  voyage.  And  the  difficulty  of  the  cause  considered, 
none  was  there,  he  said,  so  fit  so  serve  his  Grace  therein. 
Which  when  the  king  had  broken  to  Sir  Thomas  More,  and 
that  he  had  declared  unto  his  Grace  how  unfit  a  journey  it  was 
for  him,  the  nature  of  the  country,  and  the  disposition  of  his 
complexion  so  disagreeing  together,  that  he  should  never  be 
able  to  do  his  Grace  acceptable  service  there,  knowing  right 
well  that  if  his  Grace  sent  him  thither  he  should  send  him  to 
his  grave  ;  but  showing  himself  nevertheless  ready  according  to 
his  duty,  were  it  with  the  loss  of  his  life,  to  fulfil  his  Grace's 
pleasure  in  that  behalf  The  king,  allowing  well  his  answer, 
said  unto  him  :  '  It  is  not  our  pleasure,  Mr.  More,  to  do  you 
hurt,  but  to  do  you  good  would  we  be  glad.  We  will,  therefore, 
for  this  purpose  devise  some  other,  and  employ  your  service 
otherwise.'  " 

These  things  must  have  been  related  to  Roper  by  More 
when  they  occurred,  and  their  substantial  truth  can,  therefore, 
scarcely  be  called  in  question.*  Yet  if  any  part  of  More's 
conduct  as  speaker  really  caused  Wolsey  to  say  some  hasty 
words,  the  following  letter  of  Wolsey  to  the  king  was  certainly 
not  written  under  any  feeling  of  displeasure  : — 

"  Sir, — After  my  most  humble  recommendations.  It  may 
like  your  Grace  to  understand,  I  have  showed  unto  this  bearer, 
Sir  Thomas  More,  divers  matters  to  be  by  him  on  my  behalf 
declared  unto  your  Highness.  And,  sire,  whereas  it  hath  been 
accustomed  that  the  speakers  of  the  parliaments,  in  considera- 

*  Unfortunately  there  are  no  Journals  of  the  Cotnvions  before  1547. 


194  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

tion  of  their  diligence  and  pains  taken,  have  had,  though  the 
parhament  hath  been  right  soon  finished,  above  the  ;£ioo 
ordinary,  a  reward  of  ;£^ioo,  for  the  better  maintenance  of  their 
household,  and  other  charges  sustained  in  the  same ;  I  sup- 
pose, sir,  that  the  faithful  diligence  of  the  said  Sir  Thomas  in 
all  your  causes  treated  in  this  your  late  parliament,  as  well  for 
your  subsidy  right  honourably  passed,  as  otherwise,  considered, 
no  man  could  better  deserve  the  same  than  he  hath  done ; 
wherefore,  your  pleasure  known  therein,  I  shall  cause  the  same 
to  be  advanced  to  him  accordingly — ascertaining  your  Grace 
that  I  am  the  rather  moved  to  put  your  Highness  in  re- 
membrance thereof,  because  he  is  not  the  most  ready  to  speak 
and  solicit  his  own  cause.  At  your  Manor  of  Hampton 
Court,  the  24th  day  of  August  [1523],  by  your  most  humble 
chaplain.  T.  Card.,  EborP  * 

If  this  letter  shows  a  very  kind  feeling  on  the  cardinal's 
part  towards  Sir  Thomas,  a  letter  of  More's  to  Wolsey,  written 
a  few  days  later,  proves  that  the  feeling  was  mutual.  He  was 
acting  as  the  king's  secretary  at  Woking.  He  tells  the  cardinal 
how  pleased  the  king  had  been  with  a  certain  letter  which 
Wolsey  had  drafted,  to  be  sent  to  the  Queen  of  Scots,  the 
king's  sister  : — 

"Among  which,  the  letter  which  your  Grace  devised  in  the 
name  of  his  Highness  to  the  queen,  his  sister,  his  Grace  so  well 
liked  that  I  never  saw  him  like  anything  better,  and,  so  help 
me  God,  in  my  poor  phantasy,  not  causeless,  for  it  is  for  the 
quantity  one  of  the  best  made  letters  for  words,  matter, 
sentences,  and  couching  that  ever  I  read  in  my  life".t 

No  one  will  suspect  More  of  flattering  with  an  interested 
motive,  or  even  of  insincerity  in  these  words.  He  liked  to 
praise  when  he  could,  as  we  have  seen  in  his  letters  to  his 
children,  and  if  such  language  shows  that  he  knew  that  the 
great  minister  was  somewhat  childish  in  his  love  of  admiration, 
yet  he  humoured  him  out  of  native  kindliness  and  gratitude. 

*  State  Papers,  i.  124.  f  State  Papers,  i.  128. 


Stapleton  relates  that,  when  More  had  been  but  a  short  time 
privy  councillor,  Wolsey  proposed  that  a  new  office  should  be 
created — that  of  Supreme  Constable  of  the  Kingdom,  to  repre- 
sent the  king  everywhere,  a  thing  unknown  to  the  constitution, 
the  cardinal  having,  of  course,  an  ambitious  motive  in  such  a 
proposal.  The  whole  Council  was  easily  won  over  to  his 
view ;  but  when  More's  turn  came  to  speak,  he  disapproved  the 
plan,  and  defended  his  opinion  with  so  many  solid  reasons  that 
the  Council  declared  that  the  matter  required  further  delibera- 
tion. The  cardinal,  in  his  anger,  exclaimed:  "Are  you  not 
ashamed,  Mr.  More,  being  the  last  in  place  and  dignity,  to 
dissent  from  so  many  noble  and  prudent  men  ?  You  show 
yourself  a  foolish  councillor."  "  Thanks  be  to  God,"  replied 
More  at  once,  "that  his  royal  Highness  has  but  one  fool  in  his 
Council."  However,  the  question  was  postponed,  and  Wolsey 's 
plan  finally  rejected.* 

On  the  whole,  the  relations  between  Wolsey  and  More  seem 
to  have  been  cordial.  It  is  probable  that  the  cardinal  rather 
feared  than  loved  him,f  since  he  could  not  doubt  that  More 
was  quite  unawed  by  his  grandeur,  and  read  his  character 
thoroughly.  Yet  he  knew  that  More  was  no  rival,  and  he  ad- 
mired his  disinterestedness  and  integrity.  To  propose  for  him 
an  embassy  in  Spain,  might  be  an  honourable  way  of  removing 
one  whom  he  could  not  make  his  tool,  yet  there  was  surely 
nothing  in  the  Spanish  climate  so  deadly  as  to  justify  us  in 
attributing  to  him  the  revengeful  and  murderous  motive  hinted 
at  by  Roper.  All  seems  to  be  explained,  if  we  suppose  that 
Alore  saw  in  the  cardinal's  proposal  a  plan  to  get  him  away 
from  England,  and  that  More  also  saw  (what  the  cardinal  did 
not  see)  that  for  him  the  climate  would  be  perilous.  The 
Catholics  of  the  days  of  Mary  and  Elizabeth  bore  a  very  re- 
sentful feeling  towards  Cardinal  Wolsey.     They  were  convinced 

*  Stapleton,  cap.  13. 

+  lb.,  cap.  3.     Erasmus  says  the  same  thing. 

196  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

that  his  pride,  ambition,  and  worldly  policy  had  been  the 
principal  cause  of  the  degeneracy  of  Henry  VIII.  and  of  the 
schism  into  which  the  country  had  been  cast ;  and  they  were 
inclined  to  wrest  all  his  words  and  deeds  in  sinistram  partem. 

The  records  of  the  next  few  years  contain  nothing  on  which 
we  need  delay.  Sir  Thomas  More's  name  is  among  those  of 
the  gentlemen  in  the  royal  army  beyond  the  sea,  under  the 
Duke  of  Suffolk,  when  war  broke  out  again  between  England 
and  France,  in  August,  1523;  yet  other  documents  show  that 
he  did  not  leave  England.  Either  then  the  arrangements  were 
cancelled,  or  the  document  refers  to  another  Sir  Thomas  More, 
a  gentlemen  of  Dorset.*  In  August,  1523,  Sir  Thomas,  the 
subject  of  this  memoir,  was  appointed  one  of  the  collectors  of 
the  subsidy  in  Middlesex.f  In  July,  1525,  without  ceasing  to 
be  sub-treasurer,  he  was  made  Chancellor  of  the  Duchy  of 
Lancaster,  an  office  of  dignity  and  importance  ;  while  the  king 
still  kept  him  near  his  person  to  act  as  his  secretary  and  his 
master  of  requests.:,:  Indeed,  the  king  seems  to  have  been 
impatient  of  his  absence  even  in  the  necessary  discharge  of  his 
duties.  On  26th  November,  1523,  the  cardinal  writes  to  the 
king  :  "  For  such  great  matters,  as  at  the  knitting  up  of  this 
term  be  requisite  to  be  ordered  in  your  exchequer,  Sir  Thomas 
More  may  in  no  wise  be  spared  from  thence  for  four  or  five 

*  For  Sir  Thomas  More's  name,  see  Letters  and  Papers,  iii.  3288. 
The  presence  of  Sir  Thomas  More,  the  secretary  and  treasurer,  in 
England  throughout  August  and  September,  1523,  from  many  letters 
in  State  Papers,  vol.  i.  Sir  Thomas  More,  of  "  Mylplesshe,"  Dorset, 
Letters  and  Papers,  iv.  6721,  v.  1598,  1694,  vii.  508,  etc.  To  this 
latter  probably  belongs  the  £733  6s.  8d.,  a  debt  due  to  the  king  by  Sir 
Thomas  More,  among  the  debts  "  whereof  the  days  of  payment  be  past, 
and  the  money  not  paid".  This  particular  debt  had  been  contracted 
tempore  Henrici  VII.  It  could  not  be  by  our  More.  A  licence  to 
export  1000  woollen  cloths  {lb.,  iv.  2248)  to  Sir  Thomas  More  may  also 
belong  to  the  Dorsetshire  knight. 

f  Letters,  etc.,  iii.  3282. 

tib.,  iv.  1939, 


days ;  for  which  time  it  may  like  your  Highness  to  forbear  his 
coming  ".* 

Of  the  king's  fondness  for  More,  Roper  has  given  us  details, 
of  some  of  which  he  was  eye-witness,  while  the  rest  he  could 
learn  from  his  intimate  familiarity  with  his  father-in-law. 
"The  king,"  he  says,  "upon  holidays,  when  he  had  done 
his  own  devotions,  used  to  send  for  him  into  his  traverse,  and 
there,  sometimes  in  matters  of  astronomy,  geometry,  divinity, 
nnd  such  other  faculties,  and  sometimes  of  his  worldly  affairs, 
to  sit  and  converse  with  him.  And  otherwhile  in  the  night 
would  he  have  him  up  into  his  leads,  there  to  consider  with 
him  the  diversities,  courses,  motions  and  operations  of  the 
stars  and  planets.  And  because  he  was  of  a  pleasant  disposi- 
tion, it  pleased  the  king  and  queen  after  the  council  had 
supped,  yea  at  the  time  of  their  supper,  to  send  for  him  to  be 
merry  with  them.  Who,  when  he  perceived  so  much  in  his 
talk  to  delight  that  he  could  not  in  a  month  get  leave  to  go 
home  to  his  wife  and  children  (whose  company  he  most 
desired),  and  to  be  absent  from  the  court  two  days  together, 
but  that  he  should  be  thither  sent  for  again  ;  he,  much  mis- 
liking  this  restraint  of  liberty,  began  thereupon  somewhat  to 
dissemble  his  nature,  and  so  by  little  and  little  from  his  accus- 
tomed mu-th  to  disuse  himself,  that  he  was  of  them  thenceforth 
no  more  so  ordinarily  sent  for  at  such  seasons." 

Elsewhere,  however,  the  same  writer  tells  us  that  if  More 
escaped  for  some  time  by  this  artifice,  the  king's  desire  of 
his  company  was  not  appeased  :  "  Such  entire  favour  did  the 
king  bear  him  that  he  made  him  Chancellor  of  the  Duchy  of 
Lancaster ;  and  for  the  pleasure  he  took  in  his  company  would 
His  Grace  suddenly  sometimes  come  home  to  his  house  at 
Chelsea,  to  be  merry  with  him.  Whither,  on  a  time  unlocked 
for,  he  came  to  dinner  with  him,  and  after  dinner,  in  a  fair 
garden    of  his,   walked  with   him   by   the   space   of  an    hour, 

*  State  Papers,  i.  146.       ' 

198  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

holding  his  arm  about  his  neck.*  As  soon  as  his  Grace  was 
gone,  I,  rejoicing  thereat,  said  to  Sir  Thomas  More,  how 
happy  he  was  whom  the  king  had  so  famiharly  entertained,  as 
I  never  had  seen  him  do  to  any  other,  except  Cardinal  Wolsey, 
whom  I  saw  His  Grace  walk  once  with  arm  in  arm.  '  I  thank 
our  Lord,  son,'  quoth  he,  '  I  find  His  Grace  my  very  good 
lord  indeed,  and  I  believe  he  doth  as  singularly  favour  me  as 
any  subject  within  this  realm.  Howbeit,  son  Roper,  I  may 
tell  thee,  I  have  no  cause  to  be  proud  thereof,  for  if  my  head 
would  win  him  a  castle  in  France  (for  then  was  there  war 
betwixt  us),  it  should  not  fail  to  go.' "  f 

This  saying  is  a  remarkable  evidence  of  More's  insight  into 
character,  and,  it  may  be  said,  of  his  prescience.  It  also  re- 
minds us  that  to  understand  More's  life  and  character  we  must 
not  lose  sight  of  the  fact  that,  while  he  was  yearly  progressing 
in  wisdom  and  virtue,  the  king  was  fast  declining.  On  this 
subject  I  may  quote  the  words  of  Dr.  Brew^er,  as  one  best 
qualified  to  speak: — 

"Until  the  close  of  the  year  1524,"  says  this  writer,  "the 
superabundant  activity  of  the  king  himself  and  his  young 
courtiers,  wasting  itself  mainly  in  muscular  amusements,  or  ex- 
changing them  for  the  less  justifiable  excitement  of  dice  and 
card-playing,  found  more  wholesome  occupation  in  the  war  with 
France,  or  the  expectation  of  war.  But  the  defeat  of  Francis 
at  the  battle  of  Pavia  left  them  in  utter  idleness,  without  the 
hope  of  employment.  Men  of  education,  sagacity  and  ex- 
perience—generally ecclesiastics — were  at  that  time  engaged 
in  all  diplomatic  posts  requiring  more  than  usual  tact  and 
ability.  For  such  employment  the  nobility  and  gentry  who 
frequented  the  new  court  were  either  disqualified  by  ignorance 
of  their  own,  and  still  more   of  the  Latin  tongue — the  common 

*  The  king  was  tall,  More  somewhat  short. 

t  Though  Roper  had  mentioned  the  appointment  to  the  chancellor- 
ship of  the  duchy,  this  conversation  must  have  been  earlier,  for  there 
was  no  war  with  France  after  that  date. 


vehicle  of  communication — or  declined  to  qualify  themselves 
by  the  necessary  sacrifices  of  their  time  and  amusements. 

"In  1525  the  king,  then  thirty-six  years  old,  was  beginning  to 
pay  less  attention  to  business.  He  hated  the  drudgery  of  looking 
over  files  of  despatches,  from  which  the  most  exciting  topic  was 
absent ;  withdrew  himself  more  and  more  from  the  metropolis, 
and  spent  his  days  in  hunting.  Removed  more  than  ever  from 
the  personal  influence  of  Wolsey,  Henry  was  surrounded  by 
favourites,  who  recommended  themselves  to  his  notice  by 
ministering  to  his  pleasures,  and  fostering  his  love  of  profusion. 
With  them,  or  some  of  them,  Henry  spent  the  day  in  hunting 
and  the  night  in  gambling,  losing  occasionally  large  sums  of 
money.  In  1525  he  had  attempted  to  make  a  favourite  of  Sir 
Thomas  More,  professing  to  be  delighted  with  his  society,  his 
wit,  his  modesty,  and  his  learning.  At  the  death  of  Sir  Richard 
Wingfield,  in  July,  1525,  the  king  had  advanced  More  to  the 
Chancellorship  of  the  Duchy  of  Lancaster. 

"  That  More,  combining  the  religious  fervour  and  devotion 
of  the  recluse  with  the  urbanity,  grace,  and  ready  wit  of  the 
most  cultivated  man  of  the  world,  a  considerate  and  patient 
master,  a  pattern  of  conjugal  purity  and  fidelity,  should  not 
seek  to  push  his  fortune  among  the  unscrupulous  candidates 
for  royal  favour,  is  no  more  than  might  be  expected.  He  knew 
well  what  were  the  king's  intentions  at  that  time  (1527),*  and 
did  not  approve  of  them.  He  knew,  also,  how  hard  it  was  to 
contend  with  one  whose  arguments  he  could  not  admit  without 
peril  of  his  conscience,  or  contradict  without  peril  of  his  life. 
His  learning,  his  reputation,  his  legal  acquirements,  were  sure 
to  point  him  out  to  the  king  as  the  one  man  above  all  others 
whose  judgment  on  the  question  none  would  venture  to  im- 
pugn, and  few  would  be  inclined  to  dispute.  That  judgment 
he  had  avoided  giving  with  all  the  tact  and  dexterity  of  which 
he  was  master.    But.the  pursuits  of  the  court  and  the  individuals 

*  The  allusion  is  to  the  divorce. 

200  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

of  which  its  innermost  circle  was  composed  were  scarcely 
such  as  could  command  his  sympathy  and  approbation.  There 
was  hardly  one  of  them  whose  character  was  not  seriously 
tainted  with  that  vice  against  which  the  unsullied  purity  of 
More's  mind  revolted  ;  not  one  who  looked  upon  the  trans- 
gression of  the  marriage  vow  as  deserving  reprobation  or 
censure,  or  at  least  as  worse  than  a  jest."* 

This  passage,  in  its  review  of  More's  position  at  court,  has 
brought  us  to  the  date  of  the  great  divorce  question.  I  will 
postpone  this  for  awhile,  and  conclude  the  chapter  by  mention- 
ing some  of  the  diplomatic  labours  in  which  More  was  engaged 
previous  to  his  receiving  the  great  seal  as  chancellor  of  the 

In  August,  1525,  he  was  appointed,  together  with  Nicolas 
West,  Bishop  of  Ely,  to  arrange  with  the  French  envoys  the 
conditions  of  a  truce  between  France  and  England. t  A  treaty 
was  enacted  the  next  year  at  Hampton  Court,  and  again  More 
was  one  of  the  Commission.;]:  Similar  negotiations  were  con- 
cluded at  Westminster  in  May,  1527.  On  this  occasion  More's 
colleague  was  Stephen  Gardiner.  §  These  various  treaties  were 
only  preliminaries  to  a  solemn  embassy  sent  into  France  in 
1527.  Wolsey  went  in  person,  with  almost  more  than  royal 
state,  to  meet  the  French  king.  Sir  Thomas  More  was  one 
of  those  who  accompanied  the  cardinal,  not  simply  to  swell  his 
pomp,  but  to  act  as  his  councillor.  They  left  London  on 
AVednesday,  the  3rd  July.  Thursday  night  was  spent  in  the 
Bishop  of  Rochester's  palace.  We  know  of  the  long  interview 
in  which  Wolsey  tried  to  over-reach  the  holy  bishop  with  regard 

*  Brewer,  Introduction  to  Letters  and  Papers,  vol.  iv.  p.  216,  sq. 

+  Rymer,  xiv.  48. 

Ij:  Rymer,  xiv.  185.  On  14th  July,  1526,  Spinelli  writes  that  "  Sir 
Thomas  More,  his  Majesty's  secretary,  has  returned  from  France,  with 
the   articles  of  the   "  mutual   obligation  "    {Venetian    State  Papers,   iii. 


§  Letters  and  Papers,  iv.  3080,  3105,  3138. 


to  the  question  of  the  king's  marriage,  which  had  just  then  been 
secretly  mooted  before  the  two  archbishops,  but  we  have  no 
record  of  the  cordial  embraces  between  Fisher  and  More,  the 
two  loving  friends  so  soon  to  be  brother-martyrs.  Their  con- 
versation would  have  been  about  the  captivity  and  danger  of 
the  Holy  Father  Clement  VIL,  then  besieged  in  his  castle  of 
St.  Angelo,  while  Rome  was  given  up  to  the  most  cruel  and 
brutal  outrages  ever  recorded  in  history.  Before  leaving  home, 
More  had  gone  with  his  family  to  take  part  in  the  solemn  sup- 
plications for  the  Pope  in  his  parish  church.  On  leaving 
Rochester  he  joined  Wolsey  and  W^arham  in  the  Cathedral 
Church  of  Canterbury  in  similar  devotions.  Passing  over  to 
Calais  on  the  nth,  they  remained  there  some  days,  and  then 
went  by  Boulogne  to  Abbeville,  where  they  were  detained  by 
the  diplomacy  of  Francis.  On  Sunday,  the  3rd  August,  they 
were  met  outside  Amiens  by  the  French  king,  the  king  of 
Navarre,  cardinals,  bishops  and  nobles.  After  saluting  the 
cardinal,  Francis  (says  Wolsey,  in  his  report  to  the  king), 
"  saluted  my  Lord  of  London  (Tunstall),  my  Lord  Chamberlain 
(Lord  Sandys),  Master  Controller  (Sir  Henry  Guildford),  the 
Chancellor  of  the  Duchy  (Sir  T.  More),  and  such  other  ser- 
vants and  gentlemen  as  accompanied  me  ".  After  preparing 
himself  in  the  magnificent  lodging  to  which  the  king  conducted 
him  in  person,  Wolsey  went  with  his  great  gentlemen,  among 
whom  was  More,  to  visit  the  queen-mother.  On  Sunday,  17th 
August,  the  treaty  of  peace  was  solemnly  sworn  in  the  cathedral 
church  of  Amiens.  They  remained  at  Amiens  honoured  by 
splendid  festivities  till  the  end  of  August,  and  the  king  accom- 
panied them  for  some  distance  on  their  journey  home.  It  was 
nearly  the  end  of  September  when  they  reached  the  shores  of 

More  crossed  the  English  Channel  many  times,  but  not  once 
the   Irish  Sea.     On    15th   June,    1529,   John    I)u    Bellay,   the 

*  Various  letters  in  State  Papers,    vol,    i. ,   and   Cavendish's  Life  of 

202  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

French  ambassador  in  London,  wrote  to  Montmorency  :  "  In 
Ireland  there  were  some  practices  going  on  by  those  of  the 
country,  to  which  a  stop  has  been  put  in  good  time.  I  think 
they  are  going  to  send  Master  More  thither  to  treat  with  them."* 
Another  employment  was  however  found.  He  was  joined  with 
the  Bishop  of  London  (Tunstall),  Knight  and  Hacket,  in  an 
embassy  to  Cambray,  in  which  the  English  ambassadors  were 
to  meet  those  of  the  emperor,  of  the  Pope,  and  of  the  king  of 
France.  Campeggio,  who  had  come  to  England  as  legate  on 
the  affair  of  the  divorce,  wrote  on  the  29th  June  to  Salviati  : 
"  I  hear  the  king  has  had  much  discussion  with  the  Cardinal  of 
York,  proposing,  as  the  cardinal  is  unable  to  go  to  Cambray, 
to  send  thither  the  Bishop  of  London,  a  man  of  sense  and 
merit,  and  More,  a  learned  layman".!  The  next  day  the  Bishop 
of  Bayonne  wrote  to  the  king  of  France  that  the  king  of  Eng- 
land begged  him  to  defer  his  proceedings  at  Cambray  till  his 
ambassadors,  the  Bishop  of  London  and  Master  More,  should 
arrive  ;  for  considering  their  age  and  quality,  they  could  not  be 
expected  to  travel  post.;J: 

In  another  letter  Cardinal  Campeggio  writes  :  "The  Bishop 
of  London  and  More  departed  on  the  ist  (July)  to  attend  the 
congress.  They  had  particular  instructions  to  promote  the 
interests  of  the  Poi)e  and  the  Holy  See.  I  believe  they  will 
use  their  good  offices  in  this  respect,  because  I  did  my  utmost 
both  with  the  king  and  with  them."§  These  words  are  full 
of  interest.  Had  the  three  men  thus  brought  together  died  in 
that  year,  1529,  history  would  have  classed  them  together,  as 
equally  loynl  and  zealous  for  the  honour  and  welfare  of  the 
Sovereign  Pontiff.     In  a   few   years,  however,   they  had  been 

*  Letters  and  Papers,  iv.  5679. 

\Ih.,  iv.  5733. 

t//'.,  iv.  5741.  In  the  treasurer's  account  is  an  entry  of  ;£"66  13s.  4d. 
advanced  to  Sir  Thomas  More  for  his  diets  at  26s.  8d.  per  day  (/Z>.,  v. 
P-  312). 

^  J^;  5775- 


"sifted  like  wheat".  Henry's  pride  and  sensuality  had  driven 
him  into  hatred  of  the  Pope  and  obstinate  schism,  in  which 
he  died.  Tunstall  had  followed  him  into  schism,  but  re- 
covered and  died  at  last  in  the  unity  of  the  Church.  More 
had  won  the  martyr's  crown  in  defence  of  the  supremacy. 

The  Treaty  of  Cambray  was  signed  by  Margaret  of  Savoy  on 
the  part  of  Charles  V.  :  by  Tunstall,  More,  and  Racket,  on  the 
part  of  Henry:  and  by  Francis,  on  8th  August,  1529,  in  the 
Cathedral  Church  of  Cambray;*  the  ambassadors  returned  to 
England,  and  More  visited  Wolsey  on  23rd  August.  But  the 
days  of  that  minister's  glory  were  nearly  numbered,  and  More 
was  to  be  his  successor. 

In  mentioning  in  this  and  preceding  chapters  the  numerous 
treaties  of  which  Sir  Thomas  More  was  a  negotiator,  I  have 
said  very  little  as  to  their  causes,  their  provisions,  or  their  re- 
sult. To  have  done  so,  it  would  have  been  necessary  to  enter 
more  deeply  into  public  history  than  befits  a  biography.  It 
may  have  been  noticed,  however,  that  his  legal  and  practical 
skill  was  chiefly  employed  in  commercial  treaties.  As  regards 
the  purely  political  diplomacy  of  those  days,  he  had  spoken  with 
ruthless  satire  in  his  Utopia.  The  whole  passage  will  be  the 
best  commentary  on  this  chapter  : — 

"The  Utopians  call  those  nations  that  come  and  ask 
magistrates  from  them  Neighbours ;  but  those  to  whom  they 
have  been  of  more  particular  service,  Friends  ;  and  as  all  other 
nations  are  perpetually  either  making  leagues  or  breaking  them, 
they  never  enter  into  an  alliance  with  any  state.  They  think 
leagues  are  useless  things,  and  believe  that  if  the  common  ties 
of  huuianity  do  not  knit  men  together,  the  faith  of  promises 
will  have  no  great  effect ;  and  they  are  the  more  confirmed  in 
this  by  what  they  see  among  the  nations  round  about  them, 
who  are  no  strict  observers  of  leagues  and  treaties.  We  know 
how  religiously  they  are  observed  in  Europe,  more  particularly 
where  the  Christian  doctrine  is  received,  among  whom  they  are 

*  Rymer,  xiv.  326. 

2  04  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

sacred  and  inviolable  !  which  is  partly  owing  to  the  justice  and 
goodness  of  the  princes  themselves,  and  partly  to  the  reverence 
they  pay  to  the  Popes,  who,  as  they  are  the  most  religious 
observers  of  their  own  promises,  so  they  exhort  all  other  princes 
to  perform  theirs ;  and,  when  fainter  methods  do  not  prevail, 
they  compel  them  to  it  by  the  severity  of  the  pastoral  censure, 
and  think  that  it  would  be  the  most  indecent  thing  possible  if 
men  who  are  particularly  distinguished  by  the  title  of  '  The 
Faithful'  should  not  religiously  keep  the  faith  of  their  treaties. 
But  in  that  new-found  world,  which  is  not  more  distant  from 
us  in  situation  than  the  people  are  in  their  manners  and  course 
of  life,  there  is  no  trusting  to  leagues,  even  though  they  were 
made  with  all  the  pomp  of  the  most  sacred  ceremonies  ;  on  the 
contrary,  they  are  on  this  account  the  sooner  broken,  some 
slight  pretence  being  found  in  the  words  of  the  treaties,  which 
are  purposely  couched  in  such  ambiguous  terms  that  they  can 
never  be  so  strictly  bound  but  they  will  always  find  some  loop- 
hole to  escape  at ;  and  thus  they  break  both  their  leagues  and 
their  faith ;  and  this  is  done  with  such  impudence,  that  those 
very  men  who  value  themselves  on  having  suggested  these 
expedients  to  their  princes  would,  with  a  haughty  scorn,  declaim 
against  such  craft,  or,  to  speak  plainer,  such  fraud  and  deceit, 
if  they  found  private  men  make  use  of  it  in  their  bargains,  and 
would  readily  say  that  they  deserved  to  be  hanged. 

"  By  this  means  it  is  that  every  sort  of  justice  passes  with 
them  for  a  low-spirited  and  vulgar  virtue,  far  below  the  dignity 
of  royal  greatness — or  at  least  there  are  set  up  two  sons  of 
justice :  the  one  is  mean  and  creeps  on  the  ground,  and,  there- 
fore, becomes  none  but  the  lower  part  of  mankind,  and,  being 
kept  in  severely  by  many  restraints,  is  not  able  to  break  out  be- 
yond the  bounds  that  are  set  to  it  ;  the  other  is  the  peculiar 
virtue  of  princes,  which,  as  it  is  more  majestic  than  that  which 
becomes  the  rabble,  so  takes  a  freer  compass,  and  thus  nothing 
is  unlawful  except  what  is  unpleasant.  These  practices  of  the 
princes  that  lie  about  Utopia,  who  make  so  little  account  of 


their  faith,  seem  to  be  the  reasons  that  determine  them  to 
engage  in  no  confederacy.  Perhaps  they  would  change  their 
mind  if  they  Hved  among  us." 

If  this  biting  irony  had  been  deserved  by  the  diplomacy  of 
Europe  in  15 15,  when  More  thus  wrote,  it  had  not  ceased  to 
be  merited  in  1529,  when  Machiavelli's  principles  had  practically 
become  the  code  of  princes,  and  Charles  V.,  Francis  I.,  and 
Henry  VIII.  were  ceaselessly  intent  on  outwitting  each  oiher. 
Sir  Thomas  More's  part,  however,  was  confined  to  the  making 
of  the  promises  and  engagements ;  he  left  the  responsibility  of 
breaking  them  to  others. 

After  this  review  of  More's  public  life  and  period  of  prosperity, 
the  reader  will  be  interested  to  know  what  was  his  interior  life 
before  God.  In  addition  to  what  has  been  said  of  this  by  his 
biographers,  especially  Roper  and  Siapleton,  as  related  in 
previous  chapters,  we  have  a  picture  of  a  holy  statesman  drawn 
by  his  own  pen,  in  which  he  has  unconsciously  described  him- 
self; or  rather  we  have  an  account  given  of  a  method  of  sancti- 
fication,  which  we  know  from  other  sources  to  have  been  the 
one  so  successfully  adopted  by  himself.  In  the  Dialogue  of 
Comfort  against  Tribulation^  written  in  the  Tower,  Sir  Thomas 
gives  the  following  advice  as  to  the  means  by  which  a 
man  may  keep  himself  humble  in  a  state  of  honour  and 
prosperity :  "  'I'o  the  intent  that  he  may  think  of  such  things 
(as  death  and  judgment)  the  better,  let  him  use  often  to  resort 
to  confession,  and  there  open  his  heart,  and  by  the  mouth  of 
some  good,  virtuous,  ghostly  father,  have  such  things  oft  re- 
newed in  his  remembrance.  Let  him  also  choose  himself  some 
secret  solitary  place,  as  far  from  noise  and  company  as  he  con- 
veniently can,  and  thither  let  him  sometimes  secretly  resort 
alone,  imagining  himself  as  one  going  out  of  the  world,  even 
straight  unto  the  giving  up  of  his  reckoning  unto  God  of  his 
sinful  life.  Then  let  him  there  before  an  altar,  or  some  pitiful 
image  of  Christ's  bitter  Passion,  kneel  down  or  fall  prostrate,  as 
at  the  feet  of  Almighty  God,  verily  believing  Him  to  be  there 

2o6  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

invisibly  present,  as  without  any  doubt  He  is.  There  let  him 
open  his  heart  to  God,  and  confess  his  faults,  such  as  he  can 
call  to  mind,  and  pray  God  of  forgiveness.  Let  him  also  call 
to  remembrance  the  benefits  that  God  hath  given  him,  either 
in  general  among  other  men,  or  privately  to  himself,  and  give 
Him  humble,  hearty  thanks  therefor.  There  let  him  declare  unto 
God  the  temptations  of  the  devil,  the  suggestions  of  the  flesh,  the 
occasions  of  the  world  and  of  his  worldly  friends — much  worse 
many  times  in  drawing  a  man  from  God  than  are  his  most 
mortal  enemies.  There  let  him  lament  and  bewail  unto  God 
his  own  fraility,  negligence,  and  sloth  in  resisting  and  with- 
standing of  temptations,  his  readiness  and  pronity  to  fall  there- 
unto. Then  let  him  beseech  God  of  His  gracious  aid  and 
help  to  strengthen  his  infirmity  withal,  both  in  keeping  him 
from  falling,  and  when  he  by  his  own  fault  misfortuneth  to  fall, 
then  with  the  helping  hand  of  His  merciful  grace  to  lift  him  up 
and  set  him  on  his  feet  in  the  state  of  grace  again.  And  let 
this  man  not  doubt  that  God  heareth  him  and  granteth  him 
gladly  this  boon;  and  so,  dwelling  in  the  faithful  trust  of  God's 
help,  he  shall  well  use  his  prosperity  and  persevere  in  his  good, 
profitable  business,  and  shall  have  therein  the  truth  of  God  to 
compass  him  about  with  a  pa  vice  [a  shield]  of  His  heavenly 
defence  ;  that  of  the  devil's  arrow  flying  in  the  day  *  of  worldly 
wrath  he  shall  not  need  to  dread. "t 

■*  "  Scuto  circumdabit  te  Veritas  ejus  ...  a  sagitta  volante  in  die  " 
(Ps.  xc.  5,  6). 

+  Book  ii.  ch.  xvii.,  English  Works,  p.  1201. 



WE  come  now  to  a  new  phase  in  the  Hfe  we  are  studying. 
Among  many  writers  it  has  become  a  theory  that  there 
were  two  Thomas  Mores,  as  there  were  two  Henries 
called  the  Eighth ;  that  as  the  king  degenerated,  under  the 
influence  of  baffled  lust  and  wounded  pride,  from  a  pious  and 
affable  prince  to  a  sensual  and  cruel  despot,  so  too  his  minis- 
ter degenerated,  under  the  influence  of  political  and  social 
fears,  from  a  liberal  and  somewhat  sceptical  philosopher,  to 
a  bigoted  persecutor.  Horace  Walpole,  describing  the  portrait 
of  Sir  Thomas,  painted  by  Holbein  in  1527,  writes:  "It  is 
Sir  Thomas  More  in  the  rigour  of  his  sense,  not  in  the 
sweetness  of  his  pleasantry.  Here  is  rather  that  single,  cruel 
judge,  whom  one  knows  not  how  to  hate,  and  who,  in  the 
vigour  of  abilities,  of  knowledge  and  good  humour,  persecuted 
others  in  defence  of  superstitions  that  he  himself  had  exposed  ; 
and  who,  capable  of  disdaining  life  at  the  price  of  his  sincerity, 
yet  thought  that  God  was  to  be  served  by  promoting  an 
imposture ;  who  triumphed  over  Henry  and  death,  and  sunk 
to  be  an  accomplice,  at  least  the  dupe,  of  the  Holy  Maid  of 
Kent  !  "  * 

There  is  no  doubt  much  coxcombry  in  all  this  balanced 
antithesis,  yet  it  expresses  the  perplexity  which  the  apparent 
contrast  between  the  earlier  and  later  life  of  More  has  excited 
in  deeper  minds  than  Walpole's.     The  perplexity,  however,  is 

*  Anecdotes  of  Painting,  vol.  i.  70  (ed.  Wornum). 

2o8  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

self-created  by  those  who,  turning  over  the  pages  of  the 
Utopia  or  the  Praise  of  Folly,  dream  of  a  sceptical,  rational- 
istic, Utopian  More ;  and  contrast  him  with  the  More  who 
has  depicted  himself  in  his  epitaph  as  the  sworn  enemy  of 
malefactors  and  heretics — words  most  true,  yet  easily  mis- 
understood at  the  present  day.  Postponing  for  future  con- 
sideration the  charge  of  persecution,  I  will  here  confine  my 
remarks  to  his  Latin  controversial  writings,  and  especially  to 
the  book  against  Luther.  Tindale  hinted  at  some  such 
contrast  as  that  described  above,  and  Sir  Thomas  replied  as 
follows  :  "  Of  Erasmus'  book  on  the  Praise  of  Folly,  Tindale 
saith,  that  if  it  were  in  English  every  man  should  then  well 
see  that  I  was  then  far  otherwise  minded  than  I  now  write. 
If  this  be  true,  then  the  more  cause  have  I  to  thank  God  of 
amendment.  But  surely  this  is  not  true ;  for,  God  be  thanked, 
I  never  had  that  mind  in  myself  to  have  holy  saints'  images  or 
their  holy  relics  out  of  reverence.  Nor  if  there  were  any  such 
thing  in  Moria^  that  thing  could  not  yet  make  any  man  see 
that  I  were  myself  of  that  mind,  the  book  being  made  by 
another  man,  though  he  were  '  my  darling '  never  so  dear. 
Howbeit,  that  book  of  Moria  doth  indeed  but  jest  upon  the 
abuses  of  such  things,  after  the  manner  of  the  disours*  part  in  a 
play,  and  yet  not  so  far  neither  by  a  great  deal  as  the  'Messenger' 
doth  in  my  Dialogue^  which  I  have  yet  suffered  to  stand  still 
in  my  Dialogue^  and  that  rather  yet  by  the  counsel  of  other 
men  than  myself."  t 

Nor  did  Erasmus  ever  hint  that  any  revolution  had  taken 
place  in  the  mind  of  his  candid,  his  darling  More,  any  other- 
wise than  he  admits  a  change  in  his  own  view  of  things.  The 
world  had  changed,  and  new  opponents  had  arisen,  who 
aroused  new  feelings  and  required  a  new  language ;  but 
neither  More  nor  Erasmus  defended  what  they  had  before 
ridiculed,  nor  attacked  what  they  had  before  encouraged. 

*  Disour,  i.e.,  clown,  jester.  f  English  Works,  p.  422. 


More,  it  is  said,  was  in  his  early  days  a  zealous  reformer ; 
in  his  later  days  he  was  a  conservative  and  resisted  the 
reformers.  But  Reform  is  an  ambiguous  word.  More  had 
lamented  the  prevalence  of  evil  works  among  professing 
Catholics.  It  surely  does  not  follow  that  he  should  have 
welcomed  the  reform  of  Luther,  whose  principal  outcry  was 
against  the  importance  attached  by  Catholics  to  good  \\ox\i'i* 
More  declared  war,  as  Pace  tells  us,  against  certain  scholastic 
theologians,  who  affirmed  too  dogmatically  things  that  were 
obscure  and  altogether  outside  the  faith.  Was  he,  on  that 
account,  to  accept  Luther  contradicting  the  first  principles  of 
Catholic  faith  ? 

But  if  the  consistency  of  More  is  admitted,  what  is  to  be 
said  on  the  charge  of  asperity  and  scurrility  brought  against 
his  controversial  writings  ?  This  question  cannot  be  shirked 
by  a  biographer  of  More.  To  begin  with  the  accusation  of 
scurrility.  Of  More's  book  against  Luther,  published  in  1523, 
Bishop  Atterbury  has  said  :  "  It  is  throughout  nothing  but 
downright  ribaldry,  without  a  grain  of  reasoning  to  support  it; 
so  that  it  gave  the  author  no  other  reputation  but  that  of 
having  the  best  knack  of  any  man  in  Europe  at  calling  bad 
names  in  good  Latin  ".f  It  is  difficult  to  suppose  that 
Atterbury  had  ever  read  the  book  of  which  he  could  thus 
write.  It  is  replete  with  keen  irony  and  powerful  reasoning, 
as  well  as  earnest  and  touching  exhortation.  That  it  is  a 
pleasant  book  to  read  I  do  not  contend,  nor  that  it  is  free 
from  language  that  is  rude  and  nasty.  But  whether  the 
language    deserves    the    name    of    ribaldry    depends    on    the 

*  "  Luther's  most  earnest  remonstrances  were  directed  not  against 
bad  but  against  good  works,  and  the  stress  laid  upon  them  by  the 
advocates  of  the  old  religion.  If  that  religion  had  been  in  its  practice 
so  generally  corrupt  as  it  is  represented  to  have  been  by  modern  writers, 
such  denuntiations  were  idle  "  (Dr.  Brewer,  Introduction  to  Letters  and 
Papers,  p.  228).    Tindale  used  to  call  zeal  for  good  works  "  popeholiness  ". 

t  Atterbury's  Epistolary  Correspondence,  etc.,  iii.  452. 



question  whether,  when  Shakespeare's  Ajax  boxes  the  ears 
of  Thersites  and  calls  him  a  "whoreson  cur,"  he  thereby 
places  himself  on  a  level  with  Thersites,  pouring  out  his  foul 
venom  on  Agamemnon,  Achilles,  and  all  the  princes  of  the 
army.  Sir  Thomas  More  complains  that  he  could  not  clean 
the  mouth  of  Luther  without  befouling  his  own  fingers. 

But  let  us  understand  the  facts.  In  1520,  Luther  published 
his  treatise  called  the  Babylonian  Captivity  in  which  he 
finally  broke  with  the  Church,  railed  at  the  Pope,  and  called 
on  the  world  to  embrace  an  entirely  new  religion,  under  the 
name  of  genuine  Christianity.  In  152 1,  Henry  printed  his 
book  called  Defence  of  the  Seven  Sacraments.  Luther  replied 
in  a  treatise  so  scurrilous,  that  it  has  probably  no  parallel 
in  literature.  Certainly  such  language  had  never  before  been 
addressed  to  a  king  or  prince.  It  cannot  be  said  that  Henry 
had  drawn  this  upon  his  own  head.  He  had  not  attacked 
Luther,  but  stepped  in  as  the  Church's  champion,  to  ward  off 
the  blows  Luther  was  aiming  at  her.  On  the  whole  his  defence 
is  dignified,  and  he  uses  language  no  stronger  than  had  been 
used  in  all  ages,  by  saints  and  doctors,  against  inventors  of 
novelties  and  disturbers  of  unity.  In  this  book  of  Henry's 
More  had  no  other  share  than  that,  after  it  was  written,  he  had 
arranged  the  index.*  But,  against  his  will,  he  was  drawn 
into  the  controversy.  It  was  not  possible  for  the  king  to  reply 
to  an  attack  such  as  Luther's.  When  Luther,  a  few  years  later, 
wrote  an  insincere  apology  for  his  virulence,  Henry  answered  as 
it  became  him  ;  but  even  had  he  wished  it,  his  advisers  could 

*  The  words  of  Sir  Thomas  are  that  "after  it  was  finished,  by  His 
Grace's  appointment,  and  consent  of  the  makers  of  the  same,  he  was  only 
a  sorter  out  and  placer  of  the  principal  matters  therein  contained  " 
{Life  of  Roper,  p.  25).  Mr.  Bruce  in  the  ArchcBol.  (xxiii.  67)  has  a 
dissertation  on  the  authorship  of  the  Assertio  Septcin  Sacramentorum. 
He  understands  the  words  of  Sir  Thomas  as  I  have  taken  them.  I  do  not 
enter  further  into  this  matter,  since  I  have  published  an  essay  on  the 
subject,  called  "  Defender  of  the  Faith  ".     (Catholic  Truth  Society.) 


not  have  allowed  him  in  1523  to  carry  on  a  war  of  words  with 
a  foul-mouthed  German  boor.  Some  of  his  subjects  undertook 
to  avenge  the  "  Defender  of  the  Faith  ".  Fisher,  Bishop  of 
Rochester,  weighed  as  a  theologian  the  original  contentions  of 
Luther,  the  English  king's  replies,  and  Luther's  scornful 
reiterations.  The  king,  however,  in  all  probability,  himself 
suggested  to  More  that  his  wit  would  be  well  employed  in 
chastising  the  insolent  friar.  This  I  gather  from  More's  own 
words.  Apologising  for  certain  expressions,  he  says:  "I  doubt 
not,  good  reader,  that  your  fairness  will  pardon  me  that  in  this 
book  you  read  so  often  what  causes  you  shame.  Nothing 
could  have  been  more  painful  to  me  than  to  be  forced  to  speak 
foul  words  to  pure  ears.  But  there  was  no  help  for  it,  unless 
I  left  Luther's  scurrilous  book  utterly  untouched,  which  is  a 
thing  I  most  earnestly  desired. ^^ 

It  does  not  follow  that,  because  More  engaged  in  the  con- 
troversy against  his  inclination,  his  method  of  conducting  it  was 
contrary  to  his  conscience  or  his  better  judgment.  He  saw 
that  Luther  deserved  to  be  trounced ;  he  merely  regretted  that 
the  task  had  been  committed  to  him.  He  pleaded  for  leave  to 
wear  a  mask  while  performing  the  unpleasant  duty,  and  took 
the  name  of  William  Ross,  an  Englishman,  supposed  to  be  on 
a  visit  to  Italy.  His  book  is  not  a  treatise  on  Lutheranism,  for 
Lutheranism  as  a  system  had  not  yet  been  enunciated,  and  was 
still  incomplete  in  the  brain  of  its  author.  He  refutes  indeed 
both  the  denials  and  the  assertions  of  Luther  as  they  occur, 
but  it  is  with  Luther  himself  and  Luther's  language  to  Henry 
that  he  is  dealing.  The  Wittenburg  doctor,  in  the  midst  of  his 
paroxysms  of  fury  and  hurling  of  nicknames,  still  wished  to  Ije 
taken  for  a  prophet,  zealous  for  his  master's  honour ;  and 
More's  object  was  to  turn  into  utter  ridicule  this  pretension,  by 
showing  that  he  was  simply  an  enraged  and  fanatical  buffoon.* 

*  If  such  a  designation  seems  too  strong,  let  me  cull  a  few  specimens 
of  hislanguage.  The  kingis  "  rex  infelix,  stolidissimus, delirus,nugigerulus, 
sceleratissimus,   sacrilegus  ;  latro,  asinus,    porcus,  truncus,  antichristus, 

212  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

He  did  not  consider  that  his  own  book  was  to  have  any  per- 
manent value.  He  therefore  thus  concluded  it:  "  I  confess 
that  my  book  is  not  such  a  one  as  the  world  must  needs  read  ; 
but,  on  the  other  hand,  I  trust  it  is  one  that  need  not  be  despised 
by  anyone  who  has  condescended  to  read  Luther's  follies.  As  for 
those  who  have  simply  disdained  his  ranting  {ncenias)  there  is 
no  need  for  them,  nor  do  I  wish  them,  to  waste  their  time  over 
my  book." 

Of  "  reasoning,"  though  Dr.  Atterbury  could  not  find  "  a 
grain,"  there  was  far  more  than  w^as  necessary  to  overthrow  any 
arguments  advanced  by  Martin  Luther.  After  a  specimen  or 
two  of  More's  lighter  style  of  controversy,  I  will  give  a  few 
passages  which  will  explain  the  earnest  and  determined  opposi- 
tion to  the  new  opinions,  in  which  he  spent  the  rest  of  his  life. 
His  method  is  to  give  Luther's  words  in  full,  and  after  each 
paragraph  to  make  a  commentary. 

Words  of  Luther. — "Where  are  you,  my  Lord  Henry? 
Bring  forth  your  fine  book  against  Luther.  What  is  it  that 
your  Lordship  is  defending — the  seven  sacraments  }  By  whose 
teaching — that  of  God,  or  of  men  ?  Let  then  your  Thomistical 
Lordship  hear  the  judgment,  not  of  Luther,  but  of  Him  before 
whom  the  poles  of  the  earth  tremble,  '  In  vain  do  they  worship 
Me,  teaching  doctrines  and  commandments  of  men  '."  {Matt, 
XV.  9)." 

M'^ords  of  More. — "  Reader,  did  you  ever  see  a  blind  man 
in  a  rage,  and  eager  to  revenge  himself  with  his  fists  ?  To 
know  where  to  hit  out,  he  gets  his  adversary  to  speak,  and 
strikes  where  he  thinks  the  sound  comes  from,  but  hits  nothing, 
since  the  speaker  steps  back.     Such  is  Luther,  but  far  more 

stultitiae  monstrum,  rex  mendacii  ;  damnabilis  putredo,  feces  latrinaj ; 
vecors  et  indoctissima  papistic!  corporis  belua  ;  scurra  levissimus  ;  insul- 
sissimus  Thomlsta,  stropha  Thomistica;  porcus  Thomista,"  etc.,  etc. 
Sir  Thomas  More's  contention  is :  "  Quis  non  rideat  nebulonem  miserrimum 
tarn  furiosas  efflantem  glorias,  quasi  sederet  in  Christi  pectore,  cum 
clausus  jaceat  in  culo  diaboli  ?     Inde  crepat  ac  buccinat"  (Lib.  i.  cap.  7). 


ridiculous  ;  for  when  the  king  answers  him  on  his  right  hand, 
he  strikes  out  towards  the  left.  See  him  with  his  blind  eyes 
standing  ready  to  give  his  blow.  '  Where  are  you,  Lord  Henry  ? ' 
he  cries.  '  Here  I  am,  close  by  you.'  '  Come  nearer,  bring 
out  your  pretty  book  against  Luther.'  '  Here  it  is.'  '  Nearer 
still,  what  is  it  your  lordship  defends — the  seven  sacraments  ?  ' 
'  Certainly.'  '  A  little  nearer.  By  what  teaching — that  of  God 
or  of  man  ? '  'Of  God.'  Now  he  is  going  to  strike ;  mark 
with  what  precision.  '  Listen,'  he  says,  '  your  highness  :  In 
vain  do  they  worship  Me  with  the  doctrines  of  men  '  !  and  then 
he  bursts  out  laughing  and  cannot  contain  himself  for  joy,  at 
the  crushing  blow  he  has  inflicted  on  his  opponent."  * 

Luther  had  boldly  declared  that  his  only  foundation  was  the 
written  word  of  God,  that  he  might  get  rid  of  all  ecclesiastical 
tradition  and  all  exercise  of  ecclesiastical  authority.  But  the 
written  word  of  God  would  not  have  served  his  purpose  unless 
it  were  free  to  him  to  interpret  it  in  a  new  sense  by  his  own 
private  judgment.  We  may  listen  to  a  specimen  of  his  reason- 
ing and  of  More's  reply  : — 

Words  of  Luther. — "  It  is  written,  '  All  things  are  yours, 
whether  Apollo  or  Cephas  or  Paul,  and  you  are  Christ's'  (i  Cor. 
iii.  22).  If  we  are  Christ's  only,  who  is  this  stupid  king,  who 
strives  with  his  lies  to  make  us  the  Pope's  ?  We  are  not  the 
Pope's,  but  the  Pope  is  ours.  It  is  ours,  not  to  be  judged  by 
the  Pope,  but  to  judge  him.  '  For  the  spiritual  man  is  judged 
by  none,  but  he  judges  all  men  '  {pvuies)  (i  Cor.  ii.  15).  If  it 
is  true  that  all  things  are  yours,  even  the  Pope,  how  much  more 
that  dirt  and  disgrace  of  men,  the  Thomists  and  Henricians  ?  " 

Words  of  More. — "  May  I  die  if  phrenzy  itself  is  so  phrene- 
tical,  or  madness  itself  so  mad,  as  this  waggish  head  of  Luther's. 
The  Pope  is  ours,  he  says  ;  therefore  it  is  ours  to  judge  him,  not 
to  be  judged  by  him.  By  the  same  reasoning  :  The  physician 
is  ours,  therefore  it  is  ours  to  cure  him,  not  to  be  cured  by  him  ; 

*  Lib.  i.  cap.  12. 

214  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

and  the  schoolmaster  belongs  to  the  scholars,  therefore  it  be- 
longs to  them  to  teach  him,  and  not  to  learn  from  him  ! 

"  It  is  ours,  he  says,  not  to  be  judged  by  the  Pope,  but  to 
judge  him.  What  does  he  mean  by  '  ours  '  ?  Does  he  mean 
'  of  the  whole  '  collectively,  or  '  of  each  one  '  in  particular  ?  If 
he  means  '  of  the  whole,'  he  advances  nothing  for  himself,  since 
the  whole  of  the  Church  is  for  the  Pope,  and  against  Luther. 
And  in  the  matter  of  the  sacraments  still  less,  since  people  and 
Pope,  both  present  and  past,  are  in  favour  of  the  sacraments, 
and  against  Luther.  But  if  it  belongs  to  each  one  to  judge  the 
Pope  and  the  sacraments,  and  the  true  sense  of  Scripture — 
since,  among  so  many  judges,  the  judgment  of  Luther  alone  is 
on  one  side— by  what  prerogative  must  his  vote  outweigh  the 
votes  of  all  the  rest  ?  Because,  he  says,  the  spiritual  man 
judges  all,  and  he  is  judged  by  none  ;  and  because  '  all  things 
are  yours,  even  the  Pope  '.  Reader,  do  you  not  seem  to  be 
listening  to  raving  ?  Luther  alone  is  spiritual ;  the  Pope 
alone  is  unspiritual ;  so  Luther  must  judge  all  and  be  judged  by 
none,  and  the  Pope  must  judge  none,  and  be  judged  by  all ! 
And  this  raver  does  not  see  that,  while  he  is  raving  against  the 
Pope,  he  is  raving  also  against  Peter  and  Paul.  For  when  the 
Apostle  said  '  all  things  are  yours,'  he  did  not  add  '  the  Pope,' 
but  Apollo,  Cephas,  and  Paul.  Hence  Luther  must  reason 
consistently  :  We  are  not  Peter's  or  Paul's,  but  Peter  and  Paul 
are  ours  ;  therefore  it  is  ours  to  judge  Peter  and  Paul,  and  not 
to  be  judged  by  them.  Nay,  not  so  much  ours  as  '  mine,'  for 
it  is  the  prerogative  of  the  spiritual  man  to  judge  and  not  be 
judged.  Hence  the  spiritual  man,  Luther,  shall  judge,  not 
Thomists  and  Henricians  only,  but  Peter  and  Paul  and  the  rest 
of  the  Apostles.  Come  now,  reader,  deny  if  you  can  that  one 
Minerva  was  born  from  the  head  of  Jupiter,  when  you  see  the 
one  head  of  Luther  give  birth  to  so  many  phrensies."  * 

Words  of  Lut/ie?'. — "Everyone  at  his  own  risk  believes  truly 

*  Lib.  i.  cap.  14. 


or  falsely  ;  therefore  everyone  must  take  care  for  himself  that 
he  believes  aright,  so  that  common  sense  and  the  necessity  of 
salvation  prove  that  the  judgment  regarding  doctrine  is  neces- 
sarily in  the  hearer.  Otherwise  to  no  purpose  is  it  said  :  '  Prove 
all  things,  hold  fast  that  which  is  good '." 

JVords  of  More. — "So  then,  because  every  one  must  take 
care  to  believe  aright,  he  must  have  no  care  for  Pope  or 
councils,  or  church  or  holy  fathers,  or  the  people,  or  Peter  or 
Paul,  but  he  must  himself  judge  boldly  about  everything;  and 
because  he  believes  at  his  own  risk,  therefore  without  any  risk 
he  may  believe  in  himself  against  the  whole  world,  according 
to  that  advice  of  the  Wise  Man,  '  Son,  rely  not  on  thy  own 
prudence,  and  be  not  wise  in  thine  own  eyes  '."  * 

In  many  places  of  this  book  Sir  Thomas  foretold  the  conse- 
quences to  which  this  method  of  private  illumination  would 
lead,  not  only  in  the  interpretation  of  Scripture,  but  in  the  ac- 
ceptance or  rejection  of  Scripture  itself.  His  previsions  have 
been  justified,  though  slowly,  in  the  rationalism  and  universal 
uncertainty  in  religious  matters  that  prevails  at  the  present  day. 
But  quite  independently  of  what  would  come  by  a  sure  process 
of  dissolution,  contrary  to  the  will  or  expectation  of  the  original 
innovators.  Sir  Thomas  saw  quite  enough  in  the  immediate 
results  of  Luther's  revolt  to  fill  his  soul  with  horror,  whether  as 
a  Christian  or  a  statesman.  The  following  passage  is  from  the 
peroration  of  his  answer  to  Luther  :— 

"  Reader,  you  will  easily  know  the  tree  from  its  fruit.  Recall 
to  your  memory  what  you  have  read,  and  you  will  see  that, 
whatever  the  leaders  of  the  Church,  from  the  very  cradle  of 
Christianity,  worshipped  as  most  holy,  is  held  by  these  Lutherans 
in  the  utmost  contempt.  What  was  celebrated  with  such  venera- 
tion as  the  most  holy  sacrifice  of  the  Mass  ?  and  what  has  been 
more  befouled  and  trampled  on  by  these  swine  ?  As  regards 
prayer,  not  only  have  they  abolished  the  liturgy  of  the  fixed 

*  Lib.  ii.  cap.  22. 

2l6  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

hours,  but  all  the  prayers  which,  from  the  very  beginning,  the 
Church  has  been  accustomed  to  chant  for  the  dead.  Who  will 
not  abominate  such  cruelty  ?  Even  if  it  were  altogether  doubt- 
ful (as  they  falsely  contend)  whether  the  prayers  of  the  living 
can  profit  the  dead,  yet  what  harm  would  there  be  to  exercise 
our  affections  of  piety,  and  to  risk  our  prayers,  since,  even  if  we 
were  doubtful  of  their  efficacy,  we  are  certain  they  cannot  be 
injurious  ?  What  was  reverenced  more  religiously  than  fasting, 
or  observed  so  exactly  as  Lent  ?  Yet  now  these  wretches, 
'  made  perfect  in  the  Spirit,'  in  order  not  to  distinguish  day 
from  day,  give  up  every  day  to  bacchanalian  festivities.  In 
how  great  esteem  was  continence  held,  how  strictly  was  con- 
jugal chastity  prescribed,  how  approved  was  the  chastity  of 
widows,  how  assiduously  and  emphatically  was  virginity  ex- 
tolled, and  all  this  from  the  teaching  of  Christ  Himself.  But 
now  this  antichrist  has  destroyed  almost  everything  that  bears 
the  name  of  chastity.  Priests,  monks,  virgins  once  dedicated 
to  God,  now  at  the  instigation  of  the  devil,  in  this  '  church  of 
the  malignant,'  under  the  name  of  lawful  marriage,  with  a  great 
pomp  of  attendant  demons,  celebrate  their  hateful  nuptials  ; 
and,  while  none  but  evil  men  violate  a  pact  made  with  a  fellow- 
man,  these  fear  not  to  violate  a  pact  made  with  God,  safe  in 
the  indulgence  granted  by  Luther,  who  is  already  beginning  to 
establish  polygamy."  He  goes  on  to  quote  some  sayings  of 
Luther  about  marriage,  and  to  relate  his  rage  against  the  cultus 
of  the  saints  and  their  images,  Our  Blessed  Lady,  and  the 
Crucifix,  at  the  very  time  that  he  was  proud  that  his  own  portrait 
was  being  everywhere  carried  about  with  ludicrous  veneration. 
*'  These,  then,"  he  exclaims,  "  are  the  spiritual  fruits  of  this  sect,  this 
is  the  point  which  Luther's  '  piety  '  has  already  reached.  And  all 
the  crimes  which  flow  from  this  heresy  are  supported  and  justi- 
fied by  one  great  impiety,  since  they  contend  that  they  are 
compelled  to  be  what  they  are  by  the  certain  and  predestined 
will  of  God. 

"  O  illustrious  Germany,  can  you  doubt,  can  you  doubt,  when 


they  sow  such  spiritual  things,  what  kind  of  corporal  things 
they  will  reap?  Indeed  the  thistles,  as  I  hear,  are  already 
showing  an  ugly  crop,  and  God  is  beginning  to  make  known 
how  He  regards  that  sect,  when  He  does  not  permit  the  priests 
who  marry  to  take  other  wives  than  public  prostitutes.  In 
former  days  He  forbade  His  priests  to  be  joined  in  lawful 
matrimony  to  any  but  the  purest  virgins  ;*  and  now  He  does 
not  suffer  these  incestuous  and  villainous  nuptials  to  be 
contracted  except  with  the  foulest  outcasts.  And  these  bride- 
grooms, first  sunk  deep  in  infamy,  and  then  ruined  with 
disease  and  want,  and  giving  themselves  up  to  robbery,  His 
justice  is  at  last  punishing  with  public  executions.  Would 
that  His  anger  might  stop  short  in  the  punishment  of  these 
dregs  of  men  ;  but  unless  it  is  propitiated  it  will  go  farther. 
For  many  of  the  princes  see,  not  without  pleasure,  the  apostasy 
of  the  clergy,  gaping  as  they  do  after  the  possessions  of  the 
apostates,  which  they  hope  to  seize  as  derelict.  And  they 
rejoice  to  see  obedience  withdrawn  from  the  Sovereign  Pontiff, 
conceiving  then  the  hope  that  they  may  dispose  of  everything, 
and  may  divide  and  dissipate  it  among  themselves  at  home. 
On  the  other  hand,  they  need  not  doubt,  but  that  the  people 
in  their  turn  will  throw  off  the  yoke  of  the  princes,  and  deprive 
them  of  their  possessions.  And  when  they  shall  come  to  do 
this,  drunk  with  the  blood  of  the  princes,  and  exulting  in  the 
slaughter  of  the  nobles,  they  will  not  submit  even  to  plebeian 
governors ;  but  following  the  dogma  of  Luther  [about  Chris- 
tian liberty],  and  trampling  the  law  under  foot,  then,  at  last 
without  government  and  without  law,  without  rein  and  without 
understanding,  they  will  turn  their  hands  against  each  other, 
and,  like  the  earth-born  brothers  of  old,  will  jjerish  in  mutual 
conflict.     I  beg  of  Christ  that  I  may  be  a  false  prophet." 

This  prevision  of  evil  was  both  written  and  printed  two  years 
before  the  dreadful  war  of  the  peasants  proved  that  More  was 

*  Levit.  xxi.  13. 

2l8  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

no  false  prophet.  What  he  thought  of  that  calamity,  and 
especially  what  he  thought  of  Luther's  conduct  and  writings, 
both  before  and  during  it,  can  be  seen  from  the  following 
extract  from  a  Latin  letter  written  about  1526  :  *  "  God  does 
indeed  sometimes,  by  means  of  such  followers  of  the  devil, 
either  try  the  patience  of  the  good  members  of  His  Church, 
or  chastise  the  sins  of  Christians  ;  yet  He  is  faithful,  and  with 
the  temptation  will  provide  an  issue,  and  at  last  will  wipe  every 
tear  from  the  eyes  of  those  whom  He  has  purified.  But  you, 
who  are  the  impious  and  bloodthirsty  slaughterers  of  the 
faithful,  will  by  His  anger  be  reduced  to  cinders,  and  driven 
away  like  dust  from  the  face  of  the  earth.  Of  this  vengeance 
He  has  just  given  a  fearful  example,  when  those  most  wretched 
and  villainous  peasants,  seduced  by  your  teaching,  after  having 
destroyed  so  many  monasteries,  and  for  a  time  wandered 
hither  and  thither,  giving  themselves  up  to  murder  and  plunder 
with  impunity,  just  when  they  thought  they  had  attained  un- 
restrained and  unrestrainable  licence  for  every  crime — behold 
the  God  of  Majesty  spoke  in  thunder,  and  sudden  destruction 
came  upon  them.  More  than  seventy  thousand  perished  by 
the  sword,  and  those  who  remained  were  reduced  to  cruel 

"And  are  you  not  in  this  matter  ashamed  of  your  great 
master,  Luther,  first  the  most  wicked  leader,  and  then  the 
most  villainous  deserter ;  who  after  arousing,  arming,  and 
exciting  the  peasants  to  every  kind  of  crime,  when  he  saw 
that    fortune   threatened    them    with    ruin,    by   his    truculent 

*  Epistola  contra  Pomcranum  (Lovanii,  1568).  This  letter  is  not 
contained  in  More's  collected  works.  It  was  published  by  John  Fowler, 
an  English  exile,  from  More's  autograph,  which  he  had  probably  obtained 
from  John  Harris,  More's  secretary.  In  the  Preface  More  says  that  some 
one  placed  in  his  hand  a  letter  from  John  Pomeranus  (Bugenhagen),  a 
German  Lutheran,  to  "the  faithful  in  England".  Rewrote  his  reply 
evidently  with  the  view  of  publication,  but  may  have  laid  it  aside, 
preferring  his  English  controversy  with  Tindall,  Frith  and  Fish. 


writings,  betrayed  and  denounced  them,  and  gave  them  up 
to  be  torn  to  pieces  by  the  nobles  :  and  by  his  shameful 
flatteries  tried  to  smother  the  odium  that  was  felt  against 
himself  in  the  blood  of  the  poor  wretches,  of  whose  rebellion 
and  slaughter  he  was  the  sole  cause  ?  Who  that  has  a  drop 
of  human  blood  in  his  breast  would  not  prefer  to  die  ten 
times  over,  than  to  prolong  a  life  hateful  to  (iod  and  man  by 
such  foul  and  cruel  flattery  ?  " 

One  other  passage  must  be  quoted  from  the  first  answer  to 
Luther  of  1523,  described  by  Atterbury  as  "downright  ribaldry, 
without  a  grain  of  reason  ".  In  it  we  have  Sir  Thomas  More's 
declaration  of  allegiance  to  the  Sovereign  Pontiff: — 

"  As  regards  the  primacy  of  the  Roman  Pontiff,  the  Bishop 
of  Rochester  has  made  the  matter  so  clear  from  the  Gospels, 
the  Acts  of  the  Aposdes,  and  from  the  whole  of  the  Old 
Testament,  and  from  the  consent  of  all  the  holy  fathers,  not  of 
the  Latins  only,  but  of  the  Greeks  also  (of  whose  opposition 
Luther  is  wont  to  boast),  and  from  the  definition  of  a  General 
Council,  in  which  the  Armenians  and  Greeks,  who  at  that  time 
had  been  most  obstinately  resisting,  were  overcome,  and 
acknowledged  themselves  overcome,  that  it  would  be  utterly 
superfluous  for  me  to  write  again  on  the  subject. 

"  I  am  moved  to  obedience  to  that  See  not  only  by  what 
learned  and  holy  men  have  written,  but  by  this  fact  especially, 
that  we  shall  find,  that  on  the  one  hand  every  enemy  of  the 
Christian  faith  makes  war  on  that  See,  and  that,  on  the  other 
hand,  no  one  has  ever  declared  himself  an  enemy  of  that  See 
who  has  not  also  shortly  after  shown  most  evidently  that  he  was 
the  enemy  of  the  Christian  religion. 

"Another  thing  that  moves  me  is  this,  that  if,  after  Luther's 
manner,  the  vices  of  men  are  to  be  imputed  to  the  offices  they 
hold,  not  only  the  papacy  will  fall,  but  royalty,  and  dictator- 
ship, and  consulate,  and  every  other  kind  of  magistracy,  and 
the  people  will  be  without  rulers,  without  law,  and  without 
order.     Should  such   a  thing  ever  come   to  pass,  as  it  seems 

220  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

indeed  imminent  in  some  parts  of  Germany,  they  will  then  feel 
to  their  own  great  loss  how  much  better  it  is  for  men  to  have 
bad  rulers  than  no  rulers  at  all.  Most  assuredly  as  regards  the 
Pope,  God,  who  set  him  over  His  Church,  knows  how  great  an 
evil  it  would  be  to  be  without  one,  and  I  do  not  think  it  desir- 
able that  Christendom  should  learn  it  by  experience.  It  is  far 
more  to  be  wished  that  God  may  raise  up  such  Popes  as  befit 
the  Christian  cause  and  the  dignity  of  the  Apostolic  office  : 
men  who,  despising  riches  and  honour,  will  care  only  for 
heaven,  will  promote  piety  in  the  people,  will  bring  about  peace, 
and  exercise  the  authority  they  have  received  from  God  against 
the  '  satraps  and  mighty  hunters  of  the  world,'  excommunicating 
and  giving  over  to  Satan  both  those  who  invade  the  territories 
of  others  and  those  who  oppress  their  own.  With  one  or  two 
such  Popes  the  Christian  world  would  soon  perceive  how  much 
preferable  it  is  that  the  papacy  should  be  reformed  than  abro- 
gated. And  I  doubt  not  that  long  ago  Christ  would  have 
looked  down  on  the  pastor  of  His  flock  if  the  Christian  people 
had  chosen  rather  to  pray  for  the  welfare  of  their  Father  than 
to  persecute  him,  and  to  hide  the  shame  of  their  Father  than 
to  laugh  at  it. 

"  But  be  sure,  Luther,  of  this  :  God  will  not  forsake  His  own 
vicar.  He  will  one  day  cast  His  eyes  of  mercy  on  him ;  nay, 
He  is  perhaps  now  doing  it,  in  allowing  a  most  wicked  son  to 
scourge  so  painfully  his  father.  You  are  nothing  else,  Luther, 
but  the  scourge  of  God,  to  the  great  gain  of  that  See,  and  to 
your  own  great  loss.  Ciod  will  act  as  a  kind  mother  does,  who, 
when  she  has  chastised  her  child,  wipes  away  his  tears,  and,  to 
appease  him,  throws  the  rod  into  the  fire." 

What  Sir  Thomas  More  here  writes  of  the  coercitive  power 
of  the  Sovereign  Pontiff,  and  the  desirability  of  its  vigorous 
exercise,  will  probably  surprise  some  readers,  as  the  words  of 
an  English  statesman  writing  under  the  eye  and  in  defence  of 
an  English  king,  and  that  king  Henry  VHL  But  it  was  in  strict 
conformity  with  the  international  law  of  Europe. 


The  following  clause  was  introduced,  in  15 15,  into  the  com- 
mission appointing  English  ambassadors  to  treat  of  peace,  etc.  : 
"To  take  any  oath  upon  our  soul,  and  to  do  this  personally  on 
the  Holy  Gospels.  Also,  to  obtain  an  Apostolic  bull  or  rescript 
in  due  form,  in  which  all  the  contents  of  such  treaty  will  be 
confirmed  by  the  authority  of  the  Holy  See,  with  pains  and 
censures  against  ourselves  and  our  heirs,  and  the  sentence  of 
interdict  against  our  kingdom  and  dominions,  if  and  in  so  far  as 
we  do  and  consent  to  the  doing  of  anything  contrary  to  the 
aforesaid  treaty  or  any  part  of  it,  renouncing  at  the  same  time 
all  exceptions  of  fact  or  law,  even  such  as  require  special  men- 
tion, for  us  and  in  our  name,  for  the  strengthening  of  such 

This  clause  recognised  the  Pope  as  the  guardian  of  Christen- 
dom, and  in  1523  Henry  had  no  wish  to  quarrel  with  its  letter 
or  its  spirit.  If  in  1534  his  views  had  changed,  we  must  re- 
member that,  according  to  the  same  Horace  Walpole,  who 
wrote  so  brilliantly  about  More  : — 

From  Catharine's  wrongs  a  nation's  bliss  was  spread, 
And  Luther's  light  from  Henry's  lawless  bed. 

Henry  in  his  reply  to  the  apology  of  Luther,  in  which  the 
heresiarch  affected  to  believe  that  the  book  on  the  sacraments 
was  not  the  king's,  but  the  work  of  some  of  his  ecclesiastics, 
such  as  Wolsey  or  Lee,  had  plainly  declared  the  book  to  be  his 
own,  yet  at  a  later  period,  when  it  rose  up  to  condemn  him,  he 
had  the  meanness  to  insinuate,  what  he  dared  not  assert,  that 
Luther's  contention  was  true  ;  and  he  had  Luther's  letter  trans- 
lated into  English  and  spread  abroad. t 

His  meanness  and  effrontery  went  even  further  than  this. 
He  charged  some  members  of  his  Council  to  reproach  Sir 
Thomas  More  that  "he,  by  subtle  sinister  slights  most  un- 
naturally procuring  and  provoking  him  to  set  forth  a  book  of 
the  assertion  of  the  seven  sacraments,  and  maintenance  of  the 

*  Rymer,  xiii.  496,  500.     An.  15 15. 

+  Letter  of  Chapuys  (4th  Feb.,  1534).     Letters  and  Papers,  vii.  152. 

2  22  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Pope's  authority,  had  caused  him,  to  his  dishonour  throughout 
all  Christendom,  to  put  a  sword  in  the  Pope's  hand  to  fight 
against  himself".  Sir  Thomas's  answer,  which  will  be  given  in 
full  in  its  proper  place,  was  an  utter  denial  that  he  had  in  any 
way  whatever  suggested  the  king's  book.  *  No  allusion  seems 
to  have  been  made  to  his  defence  of  it  against  Luther.  In  his 
answer  to  Luther's  apology  in  1525  the  king  had  referred  to  it 
as  follows :  "  I  see  that,  both  in  England  and  other  places, 
some  have  replied  to  what  you  wrote  against  me.  Some  have 
treated  you  according  to  your  deserts,  and  handled  you  after 
your  own  fashion,  except  that  they  have  given  reasons  as  well  as 
insults,  while  you  give  only  the  latter."  Ingratitude  is  the  most 
conspicuous  feature  of  the  later  life  of  Henry  VIII.  Scarce 
one  of  all  those  who  laboured  for  him,  whether  nobly  or  ig- 
nol)ly,  met  any  other  return  than  insults  and  cruelty,  f 

*  Roper's  Life  of  More,  n.  25. 

t  In  this  chapter  I  have  taken  for  granted  that  the  book  of  Gulielmus 
Rosseus  is  by  More.  The  Latin  style,  the  wit,  and  parallel  passages  in 
More's  English  works  make  this  quite  certain,  nor  have  I  found  it  any- 
where questioned.  Stapleton,  however,  tells  us  that  during  More's  life- 
time no  one  suspected  him  to  be  the  author  (cap.  6).  More  kept  his 
secret  by  sometimes  referring  to  Ross.  Thus  in  his  English  work  against 
Tindale,  written  in  1532,  he  says  :  "  I  doubt  not  but  that  Tindale  hath 
read  both  Rosseus  and  Luther  in  those  places,  and  seeth  his  master  made 
a  fool  therein  already  "  (p.  490).  And  again  :  "  This  reason  was  by  one 
Rosseus  proved  so  foolish  and  so  unreasonable,  that  Tindale  and  Barns 
be  both  ashamed  thereof"  (p.  817).  So  also  p.  513:  "Luther  was  in 
that  point  by  Rosseus  shamefully  soused  in  the  mire".  Stapleton  does 
not  tell  us  when  the  truth  was  discovered,  nor  how.  There  is  no  allusion 
to  the  book  against  Luther  in  Roper's  notes,  but  its  authorship  was  known 
to  Harpsfield.  Stapleton  (cap.  4)  says  that  William  Ross  was  an  English- 
man, who  had  died  in  Italy  just  before  More  published  his  book.  The 
author  of  the  Life  of  More  printed  by  Wordsworth  says  he  was  a  well- 
known  wild  companion.  Had  either  of  these  writers  authority  for  these 
statements  ?  I  may  add  that  if  More  did  not  acknowledge  the  work  of 
Ross  to  be  his  own,  Fisher  in  his  book  against  CEcolampadius  in  1526 
refers  to  More's  having  written  against  Luther,  and  his  words  can  only 
refer  to  this  work  (Pref.  ad  Lib.  ii.). 



IT  is  recorded  in  every  English  history  how  Cardinal  Wolsey 
by  his  failure  to  secure  the  royal  divorce  lost  the  favour  of 
the  king  whom  he  had  served  betterthan  his  God  ;  and  how 
on  19th  October,  1529,  the  great  seal  of  his  chancellorship  was 
taken  from  him.  The  Bishop  of  Bayonne,  the  French 
ambassador  in  England,  wrote  on  22nd  October  :  "  The  Duke 
of  Norfolk  is  made  head  of  the  Council ;  in  his  absence  the 
Duke  of  Suffolk  ;  over  all  is  Mademoiselle  Anne.  It  is  not 
yet  known  who  will  have  the  seal.  I  think  no  priest  will  touch 
it,  and  that  in  this  parliament  the  clergy  will  have  terrible 
alarms."  Wolsey  is  said  to  have  declared  that  no  man  was  so 
fit  for  the  office  of  Lord  High  Chancellor  as  Sir  Thomas 
!More  ;*  but  there  is  no  likelihood  that  he  was  consulted  on 
the  appointment,  and  the  remark  was  probably  made  when  the 
name  of  his  successor  was  announced  to  him.  The  imperial 
envoy,  Eustace  Chapuys,  who  had  only  recently  arrived  in 
England,  wrote  to  Charles  V.  on  25th  October :  "  The 
chancellor's  seal  has  remained  in  the  hands  of  the  Duke  of 
Norfolk  till  this  morning,  when  it  was  transferred  to  Sir  Thomas 
More.  Everyone  is  delighted  at  his  promotion,  because 
he  is  an  upright  and  learned  man,  and  a  good  servant  of  the 
Queen. "t  From  the  official  act  we  learn  that  on  Monday, 
the  25th  October,  at  East  Greenwich,  the  seal  was  delivered 

♦  Erasmus.     £/>.  426,  in  App.     Harpsfield  and  Stapleton. 
t  Letters  and  Papers,  iv.  6026. 

2  24  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

by  the  king  to  Sir  Thomas  More,  in  the  presence  of  Sir 
Christopher  Hales,  attorney  general,  in  the  king's  privy 
chamber,  and  on  the  next  day,  26th  October,  More  took  his 
oath  as  chancellor  in  the  great  hall  at  Westminster,  in  the 
presence  of  the  Dukes  of  Norfolk  and  Suffolk,  and  a  large 
number  of  the  nobility  and  prelates.*  Roper  remembered 
five-and-twenty  years  later  the  great  eulogy  passed  on  Sir 
Thomas  by  the  Duke  of  Norfolk,  speaking  in  the  king's  name, 
and  especially  the  way  in  which  he  had  acquitted  himself  in  his 
late  embassy  at  Cambrai ;  and  how  Sir  Thomas  in  reply 
had  alluded  to  his  predecessor :  "  Considering  how  wise  and 
honourable  a  prelate  had  lately  before  taken  so  great  a  fall,t 
he  had  no  cause  to  rejoice  in  his  new  dignity.  And  as  the 
Dukes  had  charged  him,  on  the  king's  behalf,  uprightly  to 
administer  justice  without  corruption  or  partiality,  so  did  he 
likewise  charge  them  if  they  saw  him  at  any  time  in  anything  to 
digress  from  his  duty,  even  as  they  would  discharge  their  own 
duty  and  fidelity  to  God  and  the  king,  so  should  they  not  fail 
to  disclose  it  to  His  Grace,  who  otherwise  might  have  just 
occasion  to  lay  his  fault  wholly  to  their  charge.";}:  Of  course 
More's  old  friend  Erasmus  was  delighted  to  hear  of  his  elevation, 
though  he  wrote  to  Mountjoy,  to  Tunstall  and  to  Pace,  almost 
in  the  same  words  :  "I  do  not  at  all  congratulate  More,  nor 

*Ib.,  6025. 

t  Lewis,  in  his  edition  of  Roper,  has  "  fault,"  but  Harpsfield's  MS.  has 
"  fall  ".  Wolsey  had  been  prosecuted  by  the  order  of  Henry  in  the  King's 
Bench,  and  had  pleaded  guilty.  The  charge  was  that  he  had  kept  his 
legatine  court,  contrary  to  the  statute  of  Premunire. 

X  Stapleton  has  amplified  Roper's  account  by  composing  two  long  and 
eloquent  speeches,  one  for  the  duke  and  one  for  Sir  Thomas.  These 
have  been  well  translated  by  Cresacre  More.  I  omit  them,  as  they  are 
mere  exercises  in  rhetoric.  Stapleton  makes  More  say  of  Wolsey  :  accrbo 
casu  dcjcctus  occubuit  inglorins.  The  word  occubuit  may  perhaps 
mean  "fell";  Cresacre  translates  it  "died";  but  Wolsey  survived 
another  year  after  More's  speech.  Sir  James  Mackintosh  has  given  the 
speeches  in  full  without  suspecting  their  authenticity. 


literature  ;  but  I  do  indeed  congratulate  England,  for  a  better 
or  holier  judge  could  not  have  been  appointed  ".* 

Cardinal  Pole  writes  that  the  object  of  the  king  was  to  win 
over,  or  in  plain  words,  to  bribe  More  by  this  dignity,  to  side 
with  him  in  what  was  called  his  "great  matter,"  his  divorce  from 
Queen  Catharine,  and  marriage  with  x\nne  Boleyn.f  Roper 
confirms  this,  adding  that  the  king  was  led  into  this  hope  by 
Dr.  Stokesly,  whom  he  had  made  Bishop  of  London.  We 
shall  see  that  the  king  and  his  bishop  both  underrated  More's 
integrity.  It  has  surprised  many,  that  More,  who  knew  this 
design,  and  the  difficult  and  intricate  path  on  which  he  was 
entering,  should  have  accepted  the  chancellorship.  The  truth 
would  seem  to  be,  that  a  subject  had  no  choice  as  to  accepting 
or  rejecting  an  office  pressed  upon  him  by  Henry  VIII.  The 
danger  to  life  and  fortune  might  be  as  great  in  obstinately 
refusing  to  accept  the  office,  as  in  resisting  the  king's  will  in  its 
execution  ;  while  he  might  hope  that  the  king  would  soon  be 
wearied  of  him  and  allow  him  to  resign.  As  to  the  danger  to 
his  own  conscience,  More  had  taken  care  to  clear  his  way 
before  him  regarding  the  only  matter  which  then  presented  a 
difficulty,  that  of  the  divorce. 

With  respect  to  this  unhappy  question,  the  source  of  so 
many  woes,  there  will  be  no  need  to  enter  into  any  details  in 
this  memoir.  Its  general  history  will  be  sufficiently  familiar  to 
the  reader.  Sir  Thomas  More,  in  a  letter  written  to  Cromwell 
on  5th  March,  1534,  drew  up  a  full  and  minute  account  of  his 
own  course  of  action  with  regard  to  the  king's  divorce,  both 
before,  during,  and  after  his  chancellorship.  The  substance  is 
as  follows  :  Before  going  beyond  sea  with  Wolsey,  in  July,  1527, 
he  had  heard  of  the  difficulties  that  had  been  started  concerning 
the    impediment    of  affinity,    but    he    then    thought   that    the 

*  Epist.  Ernsm.  1034.  28th  March,  1530(001  1529). 
t  Certe  ipse  rerum  exitus  satis  declarat  ilium  hac  de  causa  cancellarium 
esse  factum,  quo  hac  quasi  mercede  corruptus  se  eo  trahi  pateretur. 


2  26  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

"hopes"  and  "comfort"  of  the  king  and  his  advisers  were 
founded  on  supposed  flaws  in  the  bull  of  dispensation.  On 
his  return  in  September  he  was,  therefore,  surprised  when,  on 
his  visiting  the  king  at  Hampton  Court,  while  they  were  walking 
in  the  gallery.  His  Highness  suddenly  told  him  that  he  had 
found  that  his  marriage  was  in  such  way  contrary  to  Divine  law, 
"that  it  could  in  no  wise  by  the  Church  be  dispensable".  The 
king  laid  the  Bible  open  before  him,  read  him  the  words  of 
Leviticus  and  Deuteronomy,  and  asked  his  opinion.  Not 
thinking  that  his  opinion  on  such  a  subject  could  have  much 
weight  for  or  against,  he  gave  it,  in  obedience  to  the  command. 
His  Highness  accepted  benignly  his  sudden  unadvised  answer 
(which  was  apparently  contrary  to  his  own  view),  and  com- 
manded him  to  confer  with  his  almoner,  Dr.  Fox,  and  to  read 
with  him  a  book  that  was  then  in  preparation.  This  book  was 
laid  before  a  number  of  learned  men  at  Hampton  Court,  and, 
after  some  modifications,  it  was  again  read  at  York  Place  in  the 
cardinal's  chamber,  and  the  bishops  and  doctors  present  agreed 
that  the  king  had  reasons  sufficient  to  conceive  scruples  about 
his  marriage,  and  "  to  procure  to  have  his  doubt  decided  by 
judgment  of  the  Church ".  While  the  cause  was  before  the 
legates,  Sir  Thomas  held  himself  entirely  aloof,  "for  the  matter 
was  in  hand  by  an  ordinary  process  of  the  spiritual  law,  whereof 
he  could  little  skill ".  Besides,  while  the  legates  were  still 
sitting,  he  was  sent  on  an  embassy  to  Cambrai.  On  his  return, 
having  been  appointed  chancellor,  the  king  again  moved  him 
to  consider  the  matter.  Should  he  be  able  to  take  the  king's 
point  of  view,  His  Majesty  would  gladly  use  him  among  other 
of  his  counsellors  in  that  matter.  He  would,  however,  in  no 
way  force  his  conscience ;  "he  must  first  look  to  God,  and  after 
God  to  the  king".  He,  therefore,  studied  the  matter  more 
attentively,  taking  for  his  instructors  or  advisers  those  whom  the 
king  selected :  the  Archbishops  of  Canterbury  and  York  (Warham 
and  Lee),  the  almoner,  Dr.  Fox,  and  Dr.  Nicholas  De  Burgo, 
an  Italian  friar.     Though  he  greatly  desired  to  do  the  king  all 


the  service  in  his  power,  yet,  as  he  could  not  bring  his  mind  to 
the  king's  view,  he  was  left  "  free  and  used  in  other  business," 
retaining  the  royal  favour.  Thenceforward  he  meddled  no 
more  in  the  matter,  refused  to  read  any  books  on  the  side  he 
had  himself  embraced,  and  finding  one  by  chance  in  his  study, 
that  had  been  written  against  the  divorce  by  Dr.  Clark,  Bishop 
of  Bath,  he  offered  to  send  it  back,  but  was  told  to  burn  it, 
and  did  so.  Since  the  king's  second  marriage,  he  had  in  no 
way  discussed  it  with  any,  but  had  prayed  and  would  continue 
to  pray  for  the  king,  for  the  noble  lady  who  had  been  anointed 
queen  (Anne  Boleyn),  and  their  noble  issue  "long  to  live  and 
well,  in  such  way  as  may  be  to  the  pleasure  of  God,  honour 
and  surety  to  themselves,  wealth,  peace,  and  profit  to  the 
realm  ". 

This  account  of  the  king's  designs  upon  More,  and  how  he 
contrived  to  baffle  them,  has  led  us  beyond  the  period  of  his 
chancellorship.  We  must  now^  return  to  the  time  of  his  ap- 
pointment. This  is  not  the  place,  nor  is  the  present  writer  a 
fit  person,  to  explain  the  nature  and  growth  of  the  office  of 
Lord  High  Chancellor  of  England.  A  word  or  two,  however, 
may  be  allowed,  in  order  to  prevent  confusion,  especially  in 
the  minds  of  foreign  readers  of  this  memoir.*  The  word 
"  chancellor,"  or  "  cancellarius,"  is  ambiguous.  It  has  been 
used  to  indicate  a  doorkeeper  in  a  court  of  law,  a  law  clerk,  a 
diocesan  official,  a  dignitary  in  a  cathedral  church,  the  presi- 
dent of  a  university,  as  well  as  in  later  times  a  great  judge  in 
a  court  of  equity  and  minister  of  state.  The  chancellor  of 
the  kings  of  England  was  formerly  a  chaplain  and  secretary 
to  the  king.  As  spiritual  adviser  he  was  called  the  keeper  of 
the  royal  conscience.  As  chief  secretary  he  prepared  royal 
mandates,  grants  and  charters,  and  affixed  the  royal  seal. 
Hence    he   became    (and  still   remains)    keeper   of  the   great 

*  The  following  account  is  derived  from   Lord  Campbell's  Introduc- 
tion, Bohn's  Cyclopcedia  of  Political  Knowledge,  and  similar  sources. 

2  28  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

seal.  The  king,  as  the  fountain  of  justice,  appointed  judges 
of  the  various  courts,  but  when  plaintiffs  appealed  to  the  king 
for  justice,  his  secretary  directed  the  royal  writs  to  the  judges 
to  try  the  case. 

So  far,  the  functions  of  the  chancellor  were  only  ministerial. 
His  jurisdiction  as  judge  originated  in  the  discretionary  powers 
of  the  king,  whose  special  interference  was  frequently  sought, 
either  against  the  decisions  of  his  courts  of  law,  or  in  matters 
which  were  not  cognisable  by  the  ordinary  courts,  or  lastly,  in 
cases  where  powerful  misdoers  set  ordinary  jurisdiction  at 
defiance.  Hence  arose  the  practice  of  Equity  as  distinguished 
from  the  Common  as  well  as  the  Statute  Law ;  and  as  the 
chancellor,  from  his  skill  and  experience,  was  naturally  a  chief 
adviser  of  the  king  and  his  Council,  in  course  of  time  he  came 
to  hold  (by  royal  appointment)  a  special  court,  in  which  the 
validity  of  royal  grants  was  decided,  and  matters  that  regarded 
the  possessions  and  transmission  of  land,  as  well  as  such  other 
extraordinary  cases  as  had  formerly  been  referred  to  his 
opinion.  His  office,  therefore,  was  twofold.  His  hanniper 
or  hamper  contained  the  royal  writs,  his  petty  bag  the  records 
of  his  decisions  ;  and  at  a  later  period,  the  two  sides  or  func- 
tions of  the  court  of  chancery  were  thus  designated. 

In  the  reigns  of  the  early  Anglo-Norman  kings,  the  chan- 
cellor was  but  the  sixth  of  the  officials  in  the  Aula  Regia. 
The  chief  justiciar,  constable,  mareschal,  steward,  and  cham- 
berlain preceded  him.  But  already  St.  Thomas  Beckett 
was  reckoned  secundus  a  rege,  and  had  fifty  clerks  under 
him.  In  the  time  of  the  Tudors  the  chancellor's  was 
the  highest  dignity  after  that  of  the  monarch,  and  even 
when  not  a  peer  he  was  by  his  office  prolocutor  of  the  House 
of  Lords.  Erasmus,  who,  from  his  long  residence  in  England, 
and  familiarity  with  the  two  chancellors,  Warham  and  Wolsey, 
was  well  acquainted  with  the  subject,  wrote  to  a  German 
bishop  that  "  in  England  the  cancellarius  is  not,  as  under 
the  empire,  a  mere  secretary  of  State,  but  the  supreme  judge, 


and  the  right  eye  and  right  hand,  so  to  say,  of  the  king  and 
Council.  When  he  appears  solemnly,  a  gold  sceptre  is  carried 
at  his  right,  at  the  top  of  which  is  an  imperial  crown,  and  at 
his  left  a  book.  By  these  emblems,  the  supreme  power, 
under  the  king,  and  the  knowledge  of  the  laws,  is  symbolised."* 
The  great  seal,  however,  was  the  principal  emblem  as  well  as 
instrument  of  the  chancellor's  office.  It  had  originally  been 
carried  in  a  bag  of  white  leather ;  in  the  time  of  Wolsey  this 
was  enclosed  in  another  of  crimson  velvet,  embroidered  with 
the  royal  arms.t  ' 

There  was  in  the  functions  of  the  chancellor  nothing  of  an 
ecclesiastical  character,  yet  the  office  had  been  hitherto  held, 
with  very  few  exceptions,  by  ecclesiastics,  and  not  unfrequently 
by  great  prelates,  since  they  alone  were  fitted,  by  their  superior 
education  and  knowledge  of  the  Roman  civil  law  as  well  as 
canon  law,  to  form  equitable  judgments,  and  to  fulfil  the 
other  requirements  of  the  office.  :|:  The  appointment  of  Sir 
Thomas  More  marked  a  great  change  in  English  public  life. 
Thenceforward  the  chancellors,  with  very  few  exceptions,  were 

The  chancellor  was  also  at  that  period  president  of  the 
Court  of  Star  Chamber.  The  name  of  this  tribunal  suggests 
memories  of  tyranny,  but  its  action  in  the  time  of  Henry  VIII. 
was  by  no  means  oppressive.  It  rather  provided  security  for 
the  humbler  members  of  the  community  against  oppression  by 
their  richer  or  more  powerful  neighbours,  according  to  the 
original  purpose  of  its  institution.     Its  authority  was  derived 

*  Epist.  Erasm.,  426,  in  App. 

t  During  More's  office  this  was  renewed  at  a  cost  of  £s  5s.  8d. 
(Letters  and  Papers,  v.  445). 

X  Sir  James  Mackintosh,  in  his  Life  0/  More,  p.  120. 

§  The  last  Catholic  chancellor  was  Archbishop  Heath,  under  Queen 
Mary.  To  this  day  Catholics  are  excluded  from  the  office  created  by 
Catholic  churchmen,  and  which  has  made  English  law  what  it  now  is. 
[Should  this  book  ever  reach  a  second  edition  I  trust  that  this  note  will 
have  to  be  cancelled.] 

230  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

from  the  Statutes  3  Henry  YII.,  cap.  i,  and  21  Henry  VHL, 
cap.  20.  The  first  of  these  recites  that  the  orderly  government 
of  the  reahn  was  impeded  by  unlawful  maintenances  (on  the 
part  of  noblemen),  untrue  demeaning  of  sheriffs  in  the  returns 
and  panels  of  juries,  riots  and  unlawful  assemblies,  and  it  enacts 
that  the  chancellor,  the  treasurer,  and  certain  other  dignitaries 
should  have  power  to  summon  persons  so  offending,  and  others, 
and  to  punish  the  misdoers  just  as  if  they  had  been  convicted 
in  the  due  course  of  law.  The  second  statute  enlarged  the 
tribunal.  There  exist  records  of  cases  that  came  before  this 
court,  but  not  of  the  pleadings  or  judgments;  nothing,  therefore, 
that  throws  any  light  on  Sir  Thomas  as  judge.* 

His  new  dignities  seem  to  have  made  little  change  in  the 
simplicity  of  M ore's  domestic  life ;  yet,  as  they  brought  with 
them  the  obligation  of  greater  state  in  public,  they  were  sup- 
ported by  a  greater  salary.  This  however  was  insufficient  for 
the  expenses  entailed,  at  least  to  a  man  of  More's  integrity,  for 
the  office  seems  to  have  given  to  some  other  chancellors  abun- 
dant opportunities  of  enriching  themselves.  We  find  a  warrant 
to  the  treasurer  to  allow  Sir  Thomas  More,  as  chancellor,  the 
yearly  sum  of  ;£^i42  15s.,  and  for  his  attendance  in  the  Star 
Chamber  ^£^200  a  year  ;  also  to  the  chief  butler  to  allow 
him  ^64  a  year  for  the  price  of  1 2  tuns  of  wine,  and  to  the 
keeper  of  the  great  wardrobe  ^16  for  wax.f  If  we  add  to- 
gether these  sums,  and  multiply  them  by  12  for  modern  value, 
we  find  that  his  income  was  about  ;£5ooo  a  year ;  and  accord- 
ing to  Roper,  his  professional  income  before  he  entered  on  the 
royal  service  was  nearly  as  much.  He  had,  however,  acquired 
certain  estates  and  other  emoluments  which  he  still  retained. :|: 

*  See  Appendix  to  49th  Report  concerning  Public  Records,  pp.  376-594. 

t  Letters  and  Papers,  iv.  6079. 

\  Lady  More  mentions  that  his  lands  forfeited  at  his  attainder  were 
worth  £bo  a  year.  I  find  mention  also  of  a  corrody  in  the  monastery  of 
Glastonbury  [Letters  and  Papers,  vii.  1601-32),  and  a  pension  from  the 
Order  of  St.  John  of  Jerusalem  {lb.,  1675). 


Though  only  in  his  fifty-second  year,  Sir  Thomas  More  was 
what  was  then  called  an  old  man,  such  as  he  had  depicted  "  the 
old  sage  father  sitting  in  his  chair  "  in  the  pageants  which  he 
had  illustrated  in  his  youth  : — 

Old  age  am  I,  with  locks  thin  and  hoar, 
Of  our  short  life  the  last  and  best  part  ; 
Wise  and  discreet ;  the  public  weal,  therefore, 
I  help  to  rule  to  my  labour  and  smart. 

AVhat  has  been  recorded  of  his  chancellorship,  which  lasted 
only  about  two  years  and  a  half,  may  be  grouped  under  two 
heads.  We  will  consider  him  first  as  a  minister  and  next  as  a 

The  famous  parliament  which  lasted  seven  years,  and  which 
before  its  close  pronounced  an  attainder  upon  Sir  Thomas 
More,  was  solemnly  opened  by  him  as  chancellor  only  a  few 
days  after  he  had  received  the  seal.  It  met  at  Blackfriars*  on 
Wednesday,  3rd  November,  1529,  and  in  his  speech  Sir 
Thomas  declared  "  the  cause  of  its  assembly  to  be  to  reform 
such  things  as  had  been  used  or  permitted  by  inadvertence,  or 
by  changes  of  time  had  become  inexpedient ",  The  Parlia- 
mentary Rolls  add  that  "of  these  errors  and  abuses  he  dis. 
coursed  in  a  long  and  eloquent  speech  ".t 

The  chroniclers  put  a  very  different  speech  into  More's 
mouth.  After  showing  that  the  king  was  the  shepherd  of  his 
people,  he  added  :  "  As  you  see  that  amongst  a  great  flock  of 
sheep  some  be  rotten  and  faulty,  which  the  good  shepherd 
sendeth  from  the  good  sheep,  so  the  great  wether  which  is  of 
late  fallen  (as  you  all  know),  so  craftily,  so  scabbedly,  yea  and  so 
untruly  juggled  with  the  king,  that  all  men  must  needs  guess 
and  think  that  he  thought  in  himself  that  he  had  no  wit  to 
perceive  his  crafty  doing,  or  else  he  presumed  that  the  king 
would  not  see  nor  know  his  fraudulent  juggling  and  attempts. 

*  An  adjournment  took,  place  to  Westminster  on  account  of  the  plague. 
f  Rolls  of  Parliament,  i.  151. 

232  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

But  he  was  deceived,  for  His  Grace's  sight  was  so  quick  and 
penetrable  that  he  saw  him,  yea  and  saw  through  him,  both 
within  and  without,  so  that  all  thing  to  him  was  open,  and  ac- 
cording to  his  desert  he  hath  had  a  gentle  correction,  which 
small  punishment  the  king  will  not  to  be  an  example  to  other 
offenders."  * 

I  confess  to  a  profound  distrust  of  all  such  records  of 
speeches  in  our  sixteenth  century  annalists,  unless  when  they 
are  borne  out  by  official  documents,  or  are  the  reports  of  wit- 
nesses. In  this  case  Hall's  version  of  the  chancellor's  speech 
has  no  such  confirmation,  nor  is  it  in  harmony  with  the  course 
of  events.  Wolsey  had  pleaded  guilty,  as  regards  the  Statute  of 
Premunire,  for  exercising  the  office  of  legate,  and  had  sur- 
rendered his  property  to  the  king.  Sir  Thomas  could,  therefore, 
allude  to  his  "  fall  "  at  the  time  of  his  own  installation  without 
injustice.  But  the  references  in  this  supposed  speech  at  the 
opening  of  parliament  can  only  be  to  the  forty-four  articles  or 
charges  of  maladministration .  Now  these  were  not  brought  before 
parliament  until  ist  December,  and  though  Sir  Thomas  More's 
name,  with  the  names  of  other  members  of  the  Council,  was 
then  placed  upon  the  bill,  he  was  not  the  man  to  prejudge 
Wolsey,  and  to  call  him  by  opprobrious  names  a  month  before  a 
charge  was  formulated  against  him.  There  is  also  an  evident 
anachronism  in  speaking  of  his  "  gentle  correction  "  for  his 
"fraudulent  juggling".  The  only  correction  hitherto  was  for 
the  public  exercise  of  his  legatine  powers.f 

*  Hall,  followed  verbatim  by  Grafton  and  HoHnshed. 

+  The  bill  of  attainder  was  either  withdrawn  or  rejected  in  parliament ; 
but  the  cardinal  was  convicted  before  the  King's  Bench  [Letters  and 
Papers,  iv.  6075).  It  must  have  been  under  the  influence  of  these  fabri- 
cated speeches  that  a  Catholic  writer  in  the  Dublin  Review  (June,  1858, 
p.  258)  allowed  himself  to  speak  of  More  as  moved  by  "feelings  of  the 
meanest  and  most  malignant  nature,"  and  of  repaying  the  friendship  of 
Wolsey  "by  supplanting,  and  then  co-operating  in  his  ruin  ".  Supplant- 
ing! Why,  Erasmus  tells  us  that  it  was  Wolsej'  himself  who  proposed 
More  as  his  only  fit  successor. 


The  same  chroniclers  tell  us  that,  on  the  30th  March,  1531, 
the  chancellor  thus  addressed  the  House  of  Commons  :  ''  You 
of  this  worshipful  House,  I  am  sure,  be  not  ignorant,  but  you 
know  well,  that  the  king,  our  sovereign  lord,  hath  married  his 
brother's  wife  ;  for  she  was  both  wedded  and  bedded  with  his 
brother,  Prince  Arthur.  If  this  marriage  be  good  or  no,  many 
clerks  do  doubt ; "  then,  after  the  opinions  of  some  foreign  uni- 
versities had  been  read  out  to  them,  More  concluded  (according 
to  Hall)  as  follows :  "Now  you  of  the  Common  House  may  repeat 
in  your  countries  what  you  have  seen  and  heard,  and  then  all  men 
shall  openly  perceive  that  the  king  hath  not  attempted  this  matter 
of  will  or  pleasure,  as  some  strangers  report,  but  only  for  the 
discharge  of  his  conscience  and  surety  of  the  succession  of  his 
realm."  Burnet  has  founded  on  these  words  an  argument  that 
More  was  a  partisan  of  the  divorce.  "He  was  a  man,"  says 
Burnet,  "of  greater  integrity  than  to  have  said  this  if  he  had 
thought  the  marriage  good,  so  that  he  has  either  afterwards 
changed  his  mind,  or  did  at  that  time  dissemble  too  artificially 
with  the  king."*  More  was  neither  a  dissembler  nor  did  he 
change  his  mind.  Hall  and  his  followers  have  twisted  a  message 
he  spoke  in  the  king's  name  into  a  declaration  of  his  own 
opinions.  This  is  not  a  conjecture,  but  is  proved  by  the  words 
of  Roper,  as  well  as  of  one  who  knew  More  intimately,  and 
wrote  at  the  very  time.  Roper  says  he  carried  the  king's  mes- 
sage, "not  showing  of  what  mind  himself  was  therein  ".  The 
Imperial  ambassador,  Chapuys,  in  a  letter  to  Charles  V.  on  the 
2nd  April,  1531,  says  that  "on  the  30th  March  the  chancellor 
declared  to  the  lords  in  parliament,  by  command  of  the  king, 
that  there  were  some  who  had  said  that  the  king  was  pursuing 
the  divorce  out  of  love  for  some  lady,  and  not  out  of  scruples 
of  conscience,  and  that  this  was  not  true  ".  (Such  was  the 
king's  message  :  the  responsibility  for  it,  if  it  were  false,  rested, 
of  course,  with  the  king.)     Chapuys  adds  :  "  Hereupon  some 

*  History  of  the  Rcformatioti.  In  his  Appendix  against  Sander,  iv. 
552  (ed.  Pocock). 

234  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

asked  the  chancellor  for  his  opinion ;  on  which  he  said  that 
he  had  many  times  already  declared  it  to  the  king,  and  said  no 
more.  The  chancellor  then  went  down  to  the  Commons,  and 
made  the  same  declaration  on  the  part  of  the  king."  * 

The  life  of  Sir  Thomas  More  may  be  told  intelligibly  without 
entering  into  the  details  of  the  momentous  crisis  through  which 
the  Church  in  England  was  then  passing.  It  will  be  sufficient 
to  allude  to  the  then  ambiguous  and  mysterious  title  of  Supreme 
Head  of  the  Anglican  Church,  the  recognition  of  which  the  king 
was  requiring  from  the  clergy,  before  accepting  their  subsidy 
and  withdrawing  the  prosecution  for  violating  the  Statute 
of  Premunire  by  accepting  Wolsey  as  papal  legate.  I  have 
shown  elsewhere  t  that,  though  this  title  was  not  then  put 
forward  in  opposition  to  the  supremacy  of  the  Holy  See,  it  had 
something  novel  and  perilous  about  it,  that  boded  evil  to  the 
liberties  and  rights  of  the  Church  in  England.  The  title  was 
given,  with  the  saving  clause  "so  far  as  the  law  of  Christ 
allows,"  on  nth  P'ebruary,  1531.  On  the  20th  Chapuys  wrote: 
"There  is  no  one  that  does  not  blame  this  usurpation,  except 
those  who  have  promoted  it.  The  chancellor  is  so  mortified 
at  it  that  he  is  anxious  above  all  things  to  resign  his  office."  X 
It  is  clear  from  this  that  his  voice  had  ceased  to  have  any  weight  in 
the  royal  councils ;  §  yet  either  his  name  gave  prestige  to  the 
government,  or  the  king  was  still  in  hopes  of  gaining  him  to 
his  side,  or  there  was  no  pretext  for  his  deposition.  A  year 
later,  13th  May,  1532,  Chapuys  again  wrote:  "Parliament  is 

*  Letters  and  Papers,  v.  171.  Chapuys'  despatches  were  not  known 
to  Burnet,  but  More's  own  declaration  to  Cromwell  was  known  to  him. 
He  read  it  so  carelessly,  or  with  such  prejudice,  that  what  More  says 
about  the  king's  hope  and  comfort  regarding  the  invalidity  of  the  bull  ot 
dispensation  Burnet  has  supposed  to  be  More's  hope.  The  words  of 
More  show  that  he  did  not  even  make  a  pretence  that  the  king  was  eager 
to  calm  his  scrupulous  conscience. 

t  In  my  Life  of  Blessed  Jolm  Fisher,  ch.  ix. 

X  Letters  and  Papers,  v.  112. 

§  The  council  books  of  this  period  are  lost. 


discussing  the  revocation  of  all  synodal  and  other  constitutions 
made  by  the  English  clergy,  and  the  prohibition  of  holding 
synods  without  express  licence  of  the  king.  This  is  a  strange 
thing.  Churchmen  will  be  of  less  account  than  shoemakers, 
who  have  the  power  of  assembling  and  making  their  own 
statutes.  The  king  also  wishes  bishops  not  to  have  the  power 
to  arrest  persons  accused  of  heresy.  The  chancellor  and  the 
bishops  oppose  him.  He  is  very  angry,  especially  with  the 
chancellor  and  the  Bishop  of  Winchester,  and  is  determined 
to  carry  the  matter."  *  This  was  written  only  three  days 
before  More  resigned  the  office  he  could  no  longer  hold  with  a 
good  conscience.  + 

It  is  clear  that,  throughout  these  critical  years,  the  chancellor 
had  taken  as  little  part  as  might  be  in  political  life,  and  had 
confined  himself  to  his  duties  as  a  judge.  To  these  we  must 
now  turn. 

*  Letters  and  Papers,  v.  1013. 

t  It  may  be  of  interest  to  many  to  know  what  Sir  Thomas  thought 
of  synods  and  convocations.  I  take  the  following  passage  from  his 
Apology,  written  in  1533  :  "  I  suppose  he  calleth  those  assemblings  at 
their  convocations  by  the  name  of  confederacies,  and  he  giveth  a  good 
thing  and  a  wholesome,  an  odious,  heinous  name.  For  if  they  did 
assemble  oftener,  and  there  did  the  things  for  which  such  assemblies  of 
the  clergy  in  every  province  through  all  Christendom  from  the  beginning 
were  institute  and  devised,  much  more  good  might  have  grown  thereof 
than  the  long  disuse  can  suffer  us  now  to  perceive.  But  as  for  my  days, 
as  far  as  I  have  heard,  nor  as  I  suppose  a  good  part  of  my  father's  neither, 
they  came  never  together  to  convocation,  but  at  the  request  of  the  king, 
and  at  their  such  assemblies  concerning  spiritual  things  have  very  little 
done.  Wherefore,  that  they  have  been  in  that  great  necessary  point  of 
their  duty  so  negligent,  whether  God  suffer  to  grow  to  a  secret,  un- 
perceived  cause  of  division  and  grudge  against  them.  God,  whom  their 
such  negligence  hath,  I  fear  me,  sore  offended,  knoweth.  But  surely  if 
this  '  Paciher '  call  those  assemblies  confederacies,  I  would  not  greatly 
wish  to  be  confederate  with  them,  for  I  could  never  wit  them  yet  assemble 
for  any  great  winning,  but  come  up  to  their  travail,  labour,  cost  and  pain, 
and  tarry  and  talk,  ct  cetera,  and  so  get  them  home  again  "'  [English  Works, 

V'  914)- 

236  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Sir  James  Mackintosh,  by  the  aid  of  researches  into  legal 
records,  has  shown  how  greatly  the  business  in  chancery  in- 
creased after  the  time  of  More.  "  At  the  utmost,  he  did  not 
hear  more  than  two  hundred  cases  and  arguments  yearly, 
including  those  of  every  description.  No  authentic  account  of 
any  case  tried  before  him,  if  any  such  be  extant,  has  been  yet 
brought  to  light.  No  law  book  alludes  to  any  part  of  his 
judgments  or  reasonings.  Nothing  of  this  higher  part  of  his 
judicial  life  is  preserved  which  can  warrant  us  in  believing 
more  than  that  it  must  have  displayed  his  never-failing  integrity, 
reason,  learning  and  eloquence,"  *  In  the  absence,  then,  of 
official  documents  we  are  grateful  for  the  reminiscences  of  his 
son-in-law,  Roper,  and  the  notes  of  Stapleton. 

Though  Wolsey  had  been  a  diligent  as  well  as  an  impartial 
judge,  the  business  of  the  court  of  chancery,  owing  to  the 
multitude  of  his  political  cares,  had  fallen  into  arrears,  and 
very  shortly  before  his  removal  from  office,  a  commission  had 
been  issued  to  assist  him.t  Stapleton  writes:  "The  chan- 
cellor's court  is  so  loaded  with  business  that  it  scarcely  ever 
happens  that  there  are  not  innumerable  causes  pending  there. 
Certainly  when  More  took  the  office  there  were  causes  that  had 
remained  undecided  for  twenty  years.  He  presided  so  dex- 
terously and  successfully  that  once,  after  taking  his  seat  and 
deciding  a  case,  when  the  next  case  was  called  it  was  found 
that  there  was  no  second  case  for  trial.  Such  a  thing  is  said 
never  to  have  happened  before  or  since."  % 

"  Courts  of  law,"  writes  Mackintosh,  "were  jealous  then,  as 
since,  of  the  power  assumed  by  chancellors  to  issue  injunctions 
to  parties  to  desist  from  doing  certain  acts  which  they  were  by 
law  entitled  to  do,  until  the  court  of  chancery  should  determine 
whether  the  exercise  of  the  legal  right  would  not  work  injustice." 
Roper  relates  that  though  Sir  Thomas  granted  but  few  injunc- 

*  Life  of  More,  p.  125.  f  nth  June,  1529. 

:}:  Vita  Mori,  cap.  3. 


tions,  yet  the  judges  complained,  and  their  complaints  coming 
to  Roper's  ears  he  informed  his  father-in-law.  Thereupon  he 
caused  the  chief  clerk  to  make  a  docket  of  the  injunctions 
already  passed  by  him  or  still  depending  in  any  of  the  courts. 
AVhich  done  he  invited  all  the  judges  to  dine  with  him  in  the 
council  chamber  at  Westminster  ;  where,  after  dinner,  when 
he  had  broken  with  them  what  complaints  he  had  heard  of 
injunctions,  and  moreover  showed  them  both  the  number 
and  causes  of  every  one  of  them,  upon  full  debating  they  were 
forced  to  confess  that  they,  in  like  case,  could  have  done  no 
otherwise  themselves.  He  then  offered  that  if  they  would  at 
their  own  discretion,  as  they  were,  he  thought,  in  conscience 
bound,  mitigate  and  reform  the  rigour  of  the  law  themselves,  he 
would  issue  no  more  injunctions.  This  they  refused.  After 
that  he  said  secretly  to  me  :  '  I  perceive,  son,  why  they  like 
not  so  to  do  ;  for  they  see  that  they  may,  by  the  verdict  of  the 
jury,  cast  off  all  quarrels  upon  them,  which  they  do  account 
their  chief  defence '." 

"  He  used  commonly,"  says  Roper,  "  every  afternoon  to  sit 
in  his  open  hall,*  to  the  intent  that  if  any  person  had  any  suit 
unto  him,  they  might  the  more  boldly  come  to  his  presence 
and  then  open  their  complaints  before  him.  Whose  manner 
was  also  to  read  every  bill  himself,  before  he  would  award  any 
subpana,  and  then  would  either  set  his  hand  to  it  or  cancel  it."f 

"  One  of  his  sons-in-law  on  a  time  said  merrily  to  him  that 
when  Cardinal  Wolsey  was  lord  chancellor,  not  only  they  of 
his  privy  chamber,  but  also  his  door-keeper,  got  great  gain 
under  him,  and  seeing  he  had  married  one  of  his  daughters, 
he  thought  he  might  reasonably  look  for  some  ;  but  as  the 
chancellor  now  kept  no  doors  shut,  and  all  had  access  to  his 
presence,  this  state  of  things  might  be  very  commendable  to 
the  judge,  but  was  not  very  profitable  to  his  son-in-law,  since 

*  This  seems  to  mean  his  hall  at  Chelsea.     The  chancellors  frequently 
heard  cases  in  their  own  houses, 
t  Roper,  p.  13. 

238  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

he  could  not  accept  a  fee  for  getting  for  those  who  asked  his 
assistance  what  they  could  get  equally  well  without  him.  Sir 
Thomas  praised  his  scrupulous  conscience.  '  But  there  are 
many  other  ways,  son,'  said  he,  '  that  I  may  do  you  good  and 
pleasure  your  friend  also — I  might  help  your  client  by  word  or 
letter,  or  give  his  case  precedence,  or  if  I  saw  his  case  not  the 
best  I  might  move  the  parties  to  arbitration.  Howbeit  this 
one  thing,  son,  I  assure  thee  on  my  faith,  that  if  the  parties 
will  at  my  hands  call  for  justice,  then  were  it  my  father  stood 
on  one  side  and  the  devil  on  the  other,  the  devil  should  have 
his  right,  if  his  cause  were  good.'  "  * 

It  is  right  to  say  that  Sir  James  Mackintosh  thinks  the 
favours  indicated  by  Sir  Thomas  would  have  been  "  altogether 
dishonest,"  and  that  he  would  have  recoiled  from  these  in 
practice,  t 

Another  son-in-law,  Giles  Heron,  presuming  in  Sir  Thomas's 
favour,  would  in  no  way  make  a  compromise  with  his  opponent, 
and  the  result  was  that  when  the  pleadings  were  at  an  end,  the 
chancellor  made  a  decree  against  him. 

Cresacre  More  tells  a  tale  which,  if  it  is  not  to  be  classed 
with  the  judgment  of  Solomon,  shows  at  least  that  humour 
could  be  allied  with  justice.  A  beggar  woman  had  lost  her 
dog,  and  the  finder  had  presented  it  to  Lady  More,  who  kept 
it  a  fortnight  and  grew  fond  of  it.  The  owner,  having  traced 
the  dog,  complained  to  Sir  Thomas.  He  sent  at  once  for  the 
lady  and  the  dog.  He  was  sitting  in  his  hall,  and,  asking  his 
wife  to  go  to  the  upper  end  and  the  beggar  to  the  lower  end, 
while  he  himself  held  the  dog,  he  bade  them  both  call  it.  The 
dog  at  once  ran  to  the  poor  beggar  woman,  and  the  judge  de- 
cided in  her  favour ;   but  Lady  More  purchased  it  from  her 

*  lb.,  p.  12. 

t  Sir  James,  however,  is  mistaken  in  saying  that  the  story  is  due  to 
Cresacre  More,  who  was  not  a  lawyer,  and  only  wrote  what  had  reached 
him  by  tradition.  Roper  is  the  authority,  and  he  was  a  lawyer,  and 
reported  what  More  said  to  himself. 


with  a  piece  of  gold  that  would  have  bought  three  dogs,  so  that 
all  parties  were  agreed  as  well  as  amused. 

Stapleton  has  preserved  a  story  that  perhaps  belongs  to  the 
time  when  More  was  under-sheriff  rather  than  to  his  chancellor- 
ship. While  More  was  presiding  in  court,  assisted  by  other 
magistrates,  a  gang  of  cut-purses  was  brought  up  for  trial.  One 
of  the  magistrates,  an  old  man,  thereupon  broke  out  into  a 
vehement  tirade  against  the  citizens,  who,  by  looking  so  care- 
lessly after  their  purses,  encourage  these  thefts.  More  found 
means  to  postpone  the  case  till  the  next  day,  and  meanwhile 
arranged  with  one  of  the  thieves  what  should  be  done, 
promising  him  favour  if  he  succeeded.  The  next  day,  when 
the  case  came  on  for  trial,  the  thief  declared  that  he  could  clear 
himself,  but  could  only  do  so  by  making  a  secret  and  impor- 
tant communication  to  one  of  the  judges.  More  told  him  to 
choose  whom  he  would,  and  he  at  once  chose  the  old  magistrate 
who  had  spoken  so  sharply.  While  pretending  to  whisper 
something  into  his  ear  he  managed  (as  had  been  arranged  by 
More)  to  abstract  the  old  man's  purse,  and  returned  to  his  place, 
giving  to  More  a  sign  that  he  had  been  successful.  Soon  after 
More  proposed  a  collection  in  court  for  some  special  object  of 
pity,  but  when  the  old  magistrate  looked  for  his  purse  to  make 
his  contribution,  to  his  dismay  it  was  gone.  He  declared  that 
he  had  it  when  he  took  his  seat.  More  thereupon,  amid  much 
laughter,  called  on  the  thief  to  restore  the  purse,  and  gently 
admonished  the  magistrate  not  to  be  so  severe  in  censuring 
other  men's  carelessness.* 

These  and  similar  stories  may  seem  both  insignificant  and 
misplaced  in  the  record  of  the  supreme  judge  of  a  nation,  but 
it  often  happens  that  a  jest  is  immortal,  while  a  legal  judgment 
filled  with  ancient  saws  and  modern  instances  finds  no 
chronicler.  There  remains  another  aspect  of  More's  chan- 
cellorship that  will  demand  special  treatment.     Stories  are  told 

*  Vita,  cap.  13. 



not  merely  of  severity,  but  of  cruelty  to  heretics.  I  will 
reserve  the  examination  of  these  for  a  separate  chapter,  in 
which  both  his  acts  and  writings  against  the  Lollards  and 
Lutherans  must  be  dealt  with  in  some  detail. 

What  is  rightly  called  the  submission  of  the  clergy,  or  their 
surrender  of  the  right  of  independent  legislation,  coincided 
with  the  resignation  of  the  great  seal  by  Sir  Thomas  More. 
The  official  memorandum  informs  us  that  he  delivered  it  into 
the  king's  hands  in  the  garden  of  York  Place,  near  Westminster, 
at  3  p.m.,  on  i6th  May,  1532,  in  presence  of  the  Duke  of 
Norfolk.*  Chapuys  wrote  on  22nd:  ''The  chancellor  has 
resigned,  seeing  that  affairs  were  going  on  badly  and  likely  to 
be  worse,  and  that  if  he  retained  his  office  he  would  be  obliged 
to  act  against  his  conscience,  or  incur  the  king's  displeasure,  as 
he  had  already  begun  to  do,  for  refusing  to  take  his  part  against 
the  clergy.  His  excuse  was  that  his  salary  was  too  small,  and 
that  he  was  not  equal  to  the  work.  Everyone  is  concerned,  for 
there  never  was  a  better  man  in  the  office."  t 

A  characteristic  story  has  been  preserved  by  Roper,  which 
must  be  given  in  his  own  words  :  "Whereas  upon  the  holy  days 
during  his  high  chancellorship  one  of  his  gentlemen,  when  ser- 
vice at  the  church  was  done,  ordinarily  used  to  come  to  my  lady 
his  wife's  pew  door,  and  say  unto  her,  'Madam,  my  lord  is  gone ' ; 
the  next  holy  day  after  the  surrender  of  his  office,  and  departure 
of  his  gentlemen  from  him,  he  came  unto  my  lady  his  wife's 
pew  himself,  and  making  a  low  courtesy  said  unto  her : 
'  Madam,  my  lord  is  gone  '.  But  she,  thinking  this  at  first  to 
be  one  of  his  jests,  was  little  moved,  till  he  told  her  sadly 
[seriously]  that  he  had  given  up  the  great  seal.  Whereupon, 
she  speaking  some  passionate  words,  he  called  his  daughters 
then  present  to  see  if  they  could  not  spy  some  fault  about  their 
mother's  dressing ;  but  they  after  search  saying  they  could  not 
find    none,    he    replied  :    '  Do    you    not   perceive    that    your 

*  Rymer,  xiv.  433.  "Y  Letters  and  Papers,  v.  1046. 


mother's  nose  standeth  somewhat  awry  ?  '  Of  which  jeer  the 
provoked  lady  was  so  sensible  that  she  went  away  from  him 
in  a  rage."  *  Roper  seems  here  somewhat  to  have  spoilt  his 
story  by  omitting  the  words  of  the  lady,  which  may  have  given 
some  occasion  and  point  to  this  otherwise  rather  rude  bantering. 
Sir  John  More  had  lived  to  witness  his  son's  elevation,  but 
died  before  his  resignation.t  It  has  been  already  mentioned 
that  the  chancellor,  passing  the  court  of  King's  Bench  on  his 
way  to  the  chancery,  if  his  father  was  already  seated,  would  go 
in  and  ask  his  blessing  on  his  knees.  "  When  Sir  John  lay  on 
his  deathbed,"  says  Roper,  "  Sir  Thomas,  according  to  his 
duty,  oftentimes  with  comfortable  words  most  kindly  came  to 
visit  him,  and  at  his  departure  out  of  this  world  with  tears, 
taking  him  about  the  neck,  most  lovingly  kissed  and  embraced 
him,  commending  him  into  the  hands  of  Almighty  God."  If 
the  son  who  thus  honoured  his  father  did  not  enjoy  a  long  life, 
it  was  because  God  had  better  things  in  store  for  him  in  the 
land  of  the  living. 

*  Roper's  Notes,  n.  18.  f  His  will  was  proved  5th  Dec,  1530. 




ROPER  writes  as  follows  :  "  After  he  had  given  over  the 
chancellorship,  and  placed  all  his  gentlemen  and  yeomen 
with  noblemen  and  bishops,  and  his  eight  watermen 
with  my  Lord  Audely,  that  in  the  same  office  succeeded  him,  to 
whom  also  he  gave  his  great  barge — then,  he  called  us  all  that 
were  his  children  to  him,  and  asked  our  advice  how  we  might 
now  live.  By  the  surrender  of  his  office  he  could  not,  as  he 
had  been  wont,  bear  the  whole  charges  of  the  family  himself, 
yet  he  was  unwilling  they  should  separate.  When  he  saw  us 
silent,  he  said  :  '  Then  I  will  show  my  poor  mind  to  you.  I 
have  been  brought  up  at  Oxford,  at  an  Inn  of  the  Chancery,  at 
Lincoln's  Inn,  and  also  in  the  king's  court,  and  so  from  the 
least  degree  to  the  highest.  And  yet  have  I  in  yearly  revenues 
at  this  present  left  me  a  little  over  a  hundred  pounds  a  year,* 
So  that  now  must  we  hereafter,  if  we  like  to  live  together,  be 
contented  to  become  contributors  together.  But  by  my  counsel 
it  shall  not  be  best  for  us  to  fall  to  the  lowest  fare  first. 
We  will  not,  therefore,  descend  to  Oxford  fare,  nor  to  the  fare 
of  New  Inn  ;  but  we  will  begin  with  Lincoln's  Inn  diet,  where 
many  right  worshipful  and  of  good  years  do  live  full  well  to- 
gether. W^hich,  if  we  find  not  ourselves  able  to  maintain  the 
first  year,  then  will  we  the  next  year  go  one  step  down  to  New 
Inn  fare,  wherewith  many  an  honest  man  is  well  contented.  If 
that  exceed  our  ability  too,  then  we  will  the  next  year  after 
descend  to  Oxford  fare,  where  many  grave,  learned  and  ancient 

*  Say  £1200  in  modern  value. 


fathers  be  continually  conversant.  Which  if  our  power  stretch 
not  to  maintain,  then  may  we  yet  with  bags  and  wallets  go  a- 
begging  together,  and  hoping  that  for  pity  some  good  folks  will 
give  us  their  charity,  at  every  man's  door  to  sing  Salve  Regina, 
and  so  still  keep  company  and  be  merry  together."  It  would 
seem,  however,  that  his  sons-in-law  were  too  generous  to  accept 
this  offer.  Stapleton  informs  us  that  the  family  was  broken  up, 
only  Roper  and  his  wife  remaining  in  Chelsea,  though  not  in 
their  father's  house.* 

Thus,  as  Roper  remarks,  he  had  given  up  a  most  lucrative 
position  to  enter  the  king's  service,  in  which  he  had  spent  the 
most  vigorous  and  best  part  of  his  life  ;  he  had  never  been  ex- 
travagant, yet  when  his  official  salary  ceased  he  had  not  saved 
enough  for  household  expenses.  "  The  lands  that  he  had  pur- 
chased were  not,"  says  his  son-in-law,  "  I  am  assured,  above  the 
value  of  20  marks  a  year  {£,^2>  ^s-  ^d-)'  ^^"^^  after  his  debts 
paid  he  had  not,  I  know  (his  chain  excepted),  in  gold  and  silver 
left  him  the  worth  of  ^loo."  He  had  sold  his  plate,  says 
Stapleton,  for  about  ;£^4oo.  Roper  speaks  only  of  lands  pur- 
chased. Sir  Thomas,  in  a  work  written  in  1533,  called  The 
Apology,  says  :  "  As  for  all  the  lands  and  fees  that  I  have  in 
all  England,  besides  such  lands  and  fees  as  I  have  of  the  king's 
most  noble  grace,  is  not  at  this  day,  nor  shall  be  while  my 
mother-in-law  liveth  (whose  life  and  good  health  I  pray  God 
long  keep  and  continue)  worth  yearly  to  my  living  the  sum  of 
full  ^50.  And  thereof  have  I  some  by  my  wife,  and  some  by 
my  father  (whose  soul  Our  Lord  assoil),  and  some  have  I  also 
purchased  myself.f 

*  Vlta^  cap.  15. 

f  English  Works,  p.  867.  Harpsfield  mentions  a  circumstance  which 
shows  how  far  economy  had  to  be  practised :  "  He  was  compelled  for  the 
lack  of  other  fuel,  every  night  before  he  went  to  bed,  to  cause  a  great 
burden  of  fern  to  be  brought  into  his  own  chamber,  and  with  the  blaze 
thereof  to  warm  himself,  his  wife  and  his  children,  and  so  without  any 
other  fires  to  go  to  their  beds  "  (MS.  Lift).  This  was  of  course  before 
the  dispersion  of  the  family. 



When  Archbishop  Warham  resigned  the  chancellorship,  in 
15 15,  More  had  written  to  him  a  letter  of  congratulation  that 
may  be  applied  to  himself  in  1532:  "I  ever  judged  your 
paternity  happy  in  the  wa)'you  exercised  your  office  of  chancellor, 
but  I  esteem  you  much  happier  now  that  you  have  laid  it  down 
and  entered  on  that  most  desirable  leisure,  in  which  you  can 
live  for  yourself  and  for  God.  Such  leisure,  in  my  opinion,  is 
not  only  more  pleasant  than  the  labour  you  have  forsaken,  but 
more  honourable  than  all  your  honours.  To  be  a  judge  is  the 
lot  of  many,  and  sometimes  of  very  bad  men.  But  you  pos- 
sessed that  supreme  office  which,  when  relinquished,  is  as  much 
exposed  to  calumny  as  it  formerly  conferred  authority  and  in- 
dependence ;  and  to  give  up  this  willingly  is  what  none  but  a 
moderate-minded  man  would  care,  and  none  but  an  innocent 
man  dare,  to  do."'' 

Sir  Thomas  now  was  in  this  position.  The  king  had,  indeed, 
both  promised  him  his  continued  favour,  and  commanded  the 
Duke  of  Norfolk  to  pronounce  his  eulogy  when  inducting  his 
successor.  It  was,  however,  well  known  that  the  king  was  dis- 
satisfied and  disappointed,  and  that  the  late  chancellor  had 
enemies  at  court,  especially  in  the  party  of  Anne  Boleyn,  so 
that  it  was  not  without  hope  of  success  that  some  serious  charges 
were  brought  against  him.  He  was  accused  by  a  man  named 
Parnell  that  a  Mrs.  Vaughan,  the  wife  of  his  adversary,  had 
carried  to  the  chancellor  a  large  silver-gilt  cup  as  a  bribe,  and 
that  a  decree  had  been  given  in  favour  of  Vaughan.  Sir  Thomas 
was  called  before  the  Council.  He  acknowledged  that  such  a 
cup  had  indeed  been  offered  to  him  as  a  New-Year's  gift,  though 
long  after  the  decree,  and  that  he  had  accepted  it  out  of  courtesy. 
The  Earl  of  Wiltshire  (the  father  of  Anne  Boleyn)  at  once  ex- 
claimed :  "  Ah  !  did  I  not  tell  you,  my  lords,  that  you  would 
find  the  matter  true  ?  "  Sir  Thomas  begged  leave  to  complete 
the  tale.     When  he  had,  not  without  much  ado,  received  the 

*  The  letter,  which  is  in  Latin,  is  in  full  in  Stapleton,  cap.  6. 


cup,  he  called  his  butler  to  fill  it  with  wine,  drank  to  the  lady, 
and  made  her  pledge  him  again.  He  had  then  obliged  her  to 
receive  back  the  cup  once  njore,  and  to  take  it  as  his  New-Year's 
gift  to  her  husband.  The  lady  was  summoned,  and  deposed  to 
the  truth  of  this. 

He  had  made  a  decree  in  favour  of  a  Mrs.  Croker,  a  widow, 
against  Lord  Arundell.  At  the  New-Year  she  presented  him 
with  a  pair  of  gloves  and  ^40  in  angels  within  them. 
He  said  to  her  :  "  Mistress,  it  were  against  good  manners  to  for- 
sake a  gentlewoman's  New- Year's  gift.  I  am,  therefore,  content 
to  take  your  gloves ;  but  as  for  your  money,  I  must  utterly  refuse 

A  Mr.  Gresham,  who  had  a  cause  pending,  had  sent  him  at 
the  New-Year  a  silver-gilt  cup,  of  which  he  much  admired  the 
shape.  He  had  accepted  it,  but  by  the  messenger  had  sent  him 
one  in  return  of  greater  value. 

Roper  says  he  could  have  related  many  similar  instances  of 
his  integrity.* 

More  did  not  forget  to  inform  his  old  friend  Erasmus  of  his 
retirement  from  office:  — 

"  From  the  time  I  was  a  boy  I  have  longed,  dear  Desiderius, 
that  what  I  rejoice  in  you  having  always  enjoyed  I  myself  might 
some  day  enjoy  also — namely,  that  being  free  from  public  busi- 
ness, I  might  have  some  time  to  devote  to  God  and  myself ; 
that,  by  the  grace  of  a  great  and  good  God,  and  by  the  favour 
of  an  indulgent  prince,  I  have  at  last  obtained.  I  have  not, 
however,  obtained  it  as  I  wished.  For  I  wished  to  reach  that 
last  stage  of  my  life  in  a  state,  which,  though  suitable  to  my  age, 
might  yet  enable  me  to  enjoy  my  remaining  years  healthy  and 
unbroken,  free  from  disease  and  pain.  But  it  remains  in  the 
hand  of  God  whether  this  wish,  perhaps  unreasonable,  shall  be 
accomplished.  Meanwhile  a  disorder  of  I  know  not  what 
nature  has  attacked  my  chest,  by  which  I  suffer  less  in  present 

*  Notes,  n.  24,  25. 

246  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

pain  than  in  fear  of  the  consequence.  For  when  it  had 
plagued  me  without  abatement  some  months,  the  physicians 
whom  I  consulted  gave  their  opinion  that  the  long  continuance 
of  it  was  dangerous,  and  the  speedy  cure  impossible  ;  but  that 
it  must  be  cured  by  the  gradual  alterative  effects  of  time,  proper 
diet,  and  medicine.  Neither  could  they  fix  the  period  of  my 
recovery  nor  ensure  me  a  complete  cure  at  last.  Con- 
sidering this,  I  saw  that  I  must  either  lay  down  my  office  or 
discharge  my  duty  in  it  incompletely.  .   .   . 

"  From  my  house  at  Chelsea,  14th  June,  1532."  "' 
This  letter  was  detained  some  months  in  Saxony  before  it 
reached  its  destination  at  Basle,  as  Erasmus  informs  his  friend, 
John  Faber,  Bishop  of  Vienna.  In  the  meantime  the  report 
spread  rapidly  over  Europe  that  More  had  been  deposed,  and 
that  his  successor  had  at  once  liberated  all  those  whom  More 
had  cast  into  prison  for  their  religious  teachings  or  professions. 
The  bishop  had  written  to  Erasmus  to  learn  the  truth.  Erasmus 
replied  that  he  had  been  quite  sure  the  report  was  false  before 
he  received  More's  letter,  a  copy  of  which  he  enclosed  to  the 
bishop.  He  explained  the  nature  of  the  chancellorship  in 
England,  and  made  the  highest  eulogy  of  the  manner  in  which 
More  had  held  that  charge. 

"  As  to  what  is  said  about  the  opening  of  the  prisons,"  con- 
tinues Erasmus,  "  I  do  not  know  what  the  truth  may  be.  One 
thing  is  certain  :  that  More  is  a  man  by  nature  most  gentle, 
and  that  he  never  molested  anyone,  who,  after  being  ad- 
monished, was  willing  to  relinquish  the  sectarian  contagion. 
Do  these  newsmongers  mean  that  the  supreme  judge  in  such 
a  country  as  England  should  have  no  prison  ?  Certainly  More 
hates  the  seditious  doctrines  which  are  disturbing  the  whole 
world.  He  does  not  conceal  this  nor  wish  it  to  be  secret, 
being  a  man  so  devout  that  if  he  inclines  to  any  extreme  it  is 
rather  towards  superstition   than    impiety.     But  it  is  a  great 

*  Epist.  Erasiii.,  1223. 


proof  of  his  clemency  that,  while  he  was  chancellor,  not  one 
underwent  capital  punishment  for  condemned  doctrines,  while 
so  many  have  suffered  in  Germany  and  France.  Certainly  that 
man  has  a  clement  hatred  of  the  impious  who,  when  he  has 
the  power  of  putting  them  to  death,  strives  only  to  cure  the 
vices  and  save  the  vicious.  Do  they  wish  that  he  who  fills 
the  place  of  the  king  should  favour  seditious  novelty  against 
the  judgment  of  the  king  and  the  bishops  ?  Let  us  suppose — 
what,  however,  is  far  from  the  truth — that  he  had  no  great 
aversion  from  these  new  doctrines,  either  he  would  be  bound 
to  conceal  his  partiality  or  to  resign  his  ofifice. 

"  But  let  us  pass  over  here  all  contention  about  doctrines ; 
who  does  not  know  how  many  light  and  seditious  men  are 
ready,  under  the  pretence  of  doctrine,  to  commit  freely  every 
crime,  unless  the  severity  of  the  magistrates  put  a  rein  on  their 
growing  audacity  ?  Yet  these  newsmongers  are  indignant  when 
the  supreme  judge  in  the  kingdom  of  England  does  what,  in 
the  cities  which  have  embraced  the  new  opinions,  the  senate 
is  sometimes  forced  to  do.  And  had  it  not  been  done  long 
ago,  these  false  evangelicals  would  have  burst  into  the  inner- 
most chambers  and  store-rooms  of  the  rich,  and  everyone 
would  have  been  called  a  papist  who  had  anything  to  lose. 
Already  so  great  is  the  audacity  and  so  unbridled  the  malice 
of  many,  that  even  those  who  are  the  inventors  and  propa- 
gators of  the  new  dogmas,  have  written  sharply  against  them. 
And  yet  they  want  the  supreme  judge  in  England  to  connive 
at  the  innovations,  until  the  whole  swarm  of  sects  shall  have 
spread  with  impunity  over  the  kingdom — a  kingdom  flourishing 
beyond  others  in  riches,  in  learning,  and  in  religion.  It  may 
be  indeed  that,  in  honour  of  the  new  chancellor,  some  have 
been  set  free  from  prison,  such  as  were  harmless  or  confined 
for  lighter  crimes ;  for  such  is  also  the  custom  at  the  accession 
of  a  new  king,  in  order  to  gain  the  goodwill  of  the  people ; 
and  I  fancy  that  was  done  when  More  entered  on  his  office. 
But  what  is  it  that  these  scatterers  of  false  tales  propose  ?     Is 

248  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

it  to  convince  the  sects,  and  favourers  of  sects,  that  a  safe 
retreat  is  at  hand  for  them  in  England  ?  Why,  from  letters 
that  have  reached  me  from  most  trustworthy  men,  it  appears 
that  the  king  is  even  less  tolerant  of  the  new  doctrines  than 
the  bishops  and  priests.  There  is  no  man  of  any  piety  who 
would  not  wish  to  see  a  reform  of  morals  in  the  Church,  but 
no  one  of  any  prudence  considers  it  right  to  tolerate  universal 

Erasmus  then  goes  on  to  express  his  satisfaction  at  More's 
timely  escape  from  the  absorbing  cares  of  State  ;  he  describes  his 
house  on  the  banks  of  the  Thames,  and  his  delightful  house- 
hold, which  he  compares  to  a  Platonic  academy,  but  of  a 
Christian  Plato.  "In  the  church  of  his  village  he  has  con- 
structed a  family  tomb,  to  which  he  has  translated  the  bones 
of  his  first  wife,  so  little  does  he  approve  of  any  divorce.*  On 
the  wall  he  has  placed  a  tablet,  with  the  record  of  his  life  and 
his  intentions,  which  my  secretary  has  written  out  for  you, 
word  for  word.  I  see  I  have  been  too  talkative,  but  it  is 
pleasant  to  converse  with  a  friend  about  a  friend."  t 

In  the  summer  of  1533,+  More  refers  to  this  epitaph  in  a 
letter  to  Erasmus :  "  The  heretic  Tyndale,  my  fellow-country- 
man, who  is  in  exile  nowhere  and  everywhere,  has  written  to 
England  lately  that  Melanchthon  is  now  with  the  king  of 
France  ;  that  he  himself  has  spoken  with  one  who  saw  him 
received  at  Paris  with  a  retinue  of  150  horse.  Tyndale  added 
that  he  was  afraid  that  should  France  receive  the  word  of  God 
from  Melanchthon,   it  would  be  confirmed  in  his  belief  con- 

*  Usque  adco  illi  non  placet  nllum  divortiiim.  Besides  their  obvious 
meaning,  the  words  would  appear  to  hint  at  More's  aversion  to  the 
royal  divorce. 

■[Ep.  426,  in  App.  There  is  no  date,  but  the  letter  must  have  been 
written  at  the  end  of  1532  or  early  in  1533. 

\  The  letter  (inter.  Epist.  Erasm,,  461,  in  App.),  has  no  date,  but  refers 
to  Cranmer,  the  new  archbishop,  and  his  liberality  to  Erasmus.  Cranmer 
was  consecrated  March  30,  1533. 


cerning  the  Eucharist  in  opposition  to  WyclifFe's  sect.  See 
how  carefully  these  fellows  treat  this  matter,  as  if  God  had 
committed  to  them  the  instruction  and  nurture  of  the  world 
in  the  rudiments  of  faith. 

"  As  to  what  you  wrote,  that  you  had  hesitated  about  publish- 
ing my  letter,  though  there  were  reasons  that  made  you  wish  to 
publish  it,  you  need  not  hesitate  at  all.  Some  gossips  here  have 
been  spreading  it  about  that  I  had  to  resign  against  my  will, 
though  I  pretend  it  was  not  so.  So  when  I  set  up  my  tomb,  I 
determined  to  state  the  matter  as  it  is  in  my  epitaph,  that  any 
one  might  refute  it  who  could.  As  soon  as  they  had  taken  note 
of  it,  as  they  could  not  show  it  to  be  false,  they  found  fault  with 
it  as  boastful.  I  preferred  this  to  allowing  the  other  rumour  to 
gain  ground,  not  indeed  for  my  own  sake,  for  I  do  not  care 
very  much  what  men  say  of  me,  provided  that  God  approves  of 
me ;  but  since  I  had  written  in  our  own  tongue  some  little 
books  against  some  of  our  defenders  of  contentious  doctrines, 
I  considered  that  I  ought  to  defend  the  integrity  of  my  name ; 
and  that  you  may  know  how  boastfully  I  have  written  you  shall 
receive  my  epitaph,  by  which  you  will  see  that  in  my  security 
of  conscience  I  by  no  means  flatter  them,  to  prevent  them  from 
saying  about  me  whatever  they  please.  I  have  waited  now  till 
the  meeting  of  parliament,  since  I  exercised  and  resigned 
my  office,  but  as  yet  no  one  has  come  forward  to  attack  me. 
Either  I  have  been  so  innocent  or  else  so  cautious,  that 
my  opponents  must  let  mc  boast  of  one  or  other  of  these 

"  But  as  regards  this  business,  the  king  has  spoken  many 
times  privately,  and  twice  in  public.  For  in  words  which  I  am 
ashamed  to  repeat,  when  my  successor  (a  most  illustrious  man) 
was  installed,  the  king,  by  the  mouth  of  the  Duke  of  Norfolk, 
the  Lord  High  Treasurer  of  England,  ordered  an  honourable 
testimony  to  be  given  that  with  difficulty  he  had  yielded  to  my 
request  to  retire.  And  not  contented  with  this,  the  king,  out 
of  his  singular  goodness  to  me,  had  the  same  thing  repeated  by 

250  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

my  successor  in  his  own  presence,  at  the  solemn  assembly  of 
the  peers  and  commons,  in  the  speech  which  is  made  at  the 
opening  of  parliament. 

"  If  then  you  think  it  expedient  you  need  not  hesitate  to 
publish  my  letter.  As  to  what  I  profess  in  my  letter  that  I  gave 
trouble  to  heretics,  I  took  pride  in  writing  this.*  For  I  so 
entirely  detest  that  race  of  men,  that  there  is  none  to  which  I 
would  be  more  hostile,  unless  they  amend.  For  every  day 
more  and  more,  I  find  them  to  be  of  such  a  sort,  that  I  greatly 
fear  for  what  they  are  bringing  on  the  world."  t 

I  give  this  famous  epitaph  in  the  old  translation  of  Rastell : 
"  Thomas  More,  a  Londoner  born,  of  no  noble  family,  but  of 
an  honest  stock,  somewhat  brought  up  in  learning ;  after  that 
in  his  young  days  he  had  been  a  pleader  in  the  laws  of  this 
hall  J  certain  years,  being  one  of  the  under-sheriffs  of  London, 
was  of  noble  King  Henry  the  Eight  (which  alone  of  all  kings 
worthily  deserved  both  with  sword  and  pen  to  be  called  the 
Defender  of  the  Faith,  a  glory  afore  not  heard  of)  called  into 
the  court,  and  chose  one  of  the  Council  and  made  knight ; 
then  made  first  undertreasurer  of  England,  after  that  chan- 
cellor of  the  Duchy  of  Lancaster,  and  last  of  all,  with  great 
favour  of  his  prince,  lord  chancellor  of  England.  But  in  the 
mean  season,  he  was  chosen  speaker  of  the  parliament,  and 
besides  was  divers  times  in  divers  places  the  king's  ambassador^ 
and  last  of  all  at  Cambray,  joined  fellow  and  companion  with 
Cuthbert  Tunstal,  chief  of  that  embassy,  then  Bishop  of  Lon- 
don, and  within  a  while  after  Bishop  of  Durham,  who  so 
excelleth  in  learning,  wit  and  virtue,  that  the  whole  world  scant 
hath  at  this  day  any  more  learned,  wiser  or  better ;  where  he 
both  joyfully  saw  and  was  present  ambassador  when  the  leagues 

*  Hoc  ambitiose  feci. 

t  Inter  Epist.  Erasm,,  466,  in  App. 

t  Perhaps  a  misprint  for  "  realm  ". 


between  the  chief  princes  of  Christendom  were  renewed  again, 
and  peace  so  long  looked  for  restored  to  Christendom,  which 
peace  Our  Lord  stablish  and  make  perpetual. 

"  When  he  had  thus  gone  through  this  course  of  offices  or 
honours,  that  neither  that  gracious  prince  could  disallow  his 
doings,  nor  he  was  odious  to  the  nobility  nor  unpleasant  to  the 
people,  but  yet  to  thieves,  murderers  and  heretics  grievous,  at 
last  John  More,  his  father,  knight,  and  chosen  of  the  prince  to 
be  one  of  the  justices  of  the  King's  Bench,  a  civil  man,  pleasant, 
harmless,  gentle,  pitiful,  just  and  uncorrupted,  in  years  old,  but 
in  body  more  than  for  his  years  lusty,  after  that  he  perceived 
his  life  so  long  lengthened,  that  he  saw  his  son  lord  chancellor 
of  England,  thinking  himself  now  to  have  lived  long  enough, 
gladly  departed  to  God.     His  son  then,  his  father  being  dead, 
to  whom  as  long  as  he  lived  being  compared  was  wont  both  to 
be  called  young  and  himself  so  thought  too,  missing  now  his 
father  departed,  and  seeing  four  children  of  his  own,  and  of 
their  offspring  eleven,  began  in  his  own  conceit  to  wax  old ; 
and  this  affection  of  his  was  increased  by  a  certain  sickly  dis- 
position of  his  breast,  even  by  and  by  following,  as  a  sign  or 
token  of  age  creeping  upon  him.       He,  therefore,  irked  and 
weary  of  worldly  business,  giving  up  his  promotions,  obtained 
fit  last  by  the  incomparable  benefit  of  his  most  gentle  prince,  if 
it  please  God  to  favour  his  enterprise,  the  thing  which  from  a 
child  in  a  manner  always  he  wished  and  desired :  that  he  might 
have  some  years  of  his  life  free,  in  which  he  little  and  little 
withdrawing  himself  from  the  business  of  this  life,  might  con- 
tinually remember  the  immortality  of  the  life  to  come.     And 
he  hath  caused  this  tomb  to  be  made  for  himself,  his  first  wife's 
bones  hither  too,  that  might  every  day  put  him  in  memory  of 
death  that  never  ceases  to  creep  on  him.     And  that  this  tomb 
made  for  him  in  his  life-time  be  not  in  vain,  nor  that  he  fear 
death    coming  upon  him,  l^ut  that  he  may  willingly,  for   the 
desire  of  Christ,  die  and  find  death  not  utterly  death  to  him, 
but  the  gate  of  a  wealthier  life,  help  him,  I  beseech  you,  good 

252  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

reader,  now  with  your  prayers  while  he  liveth,  and  when  he  is 
dead  also." 

The  epitaph  concludes  with  some  Latin  verses,  which  I  give 
in  the  very  literal  translation  of  Archdeacon  Wrangham  : — 

Within  this  tomb  Jane,  wife  of  More,  reclines  ; 

This  More  for  AHce  and  himself  designs. 

The  first,  dear  object  of  my  youthful  vow, 

Gave  me  three  daughters  and  a  son  to  know ; 

The  next — ah  !  virtue  in  a  stepdame  rare! — 

Nursed  my  sweet  infants  with  a  mother's  care. 

With  both  my  years  so  happily  have  past, 

Which  most  my  love,  I  know  not — -first  or  last. 

Oh!  had  religion  destiny  allowed, 

How  smoothly  mixed  had  our  three  fortunes  flowed  ! 

But,  be  we  in  the  tomb,  in  heaven  allied. 

So  kinder  death  shall  grant  what  life  denied.*" 

*  From  Cayley's  Life  of  More,  i.  134. 



IN  his  epitaph  More  had  designed  and  emphatically  stated 
that  he  had  been  "  troublesome  to  thieves,  murderers, 
and  heretics  "  (furilms,  homicidis^  ho^reticisque  molestus). 
We  have  seen  Erasmus's  commentary  on  these  words.  It  is 
necessary,  however,  to  study  their  force,  not  as  apologists,  but 
as  historians.  Whom  does  More  designate  as  heretics  ?  In 
what  way  did  he  trouble  or  "  molest  "  them  ?  In  molesting 
them,  did  he  contradict  the  principles  he  had  laid  down  in  his 
Utopia  about  toleration  ?  Did  he  remain  within,  or  did  he  go 
beyond  the  law  as  it  existed  in  his  time? 

There  is  a  long-standing  tradition  that  he  was  not  merely 
severe,  which  may  seem  to  be  justified  by  his  own  words,  but 
even  arbitrary  and  unjust.  i\nd  as  his  amiable  and  upright 
character  is  admitted  on  all  hands,  the  blame  of  this  warp  in 
his  character  and  blot  on  his  fame  is  cast  on  the  religion  which 
he  professed.  We  have  seen  Horace  Walpole  writing  of  "  that 
cruel  judge  whom  one  knows  not  how  to  hate,  who  persecuted 
others  in  defence  of  superstitions  he  had  himself  exposed  ".  It 
is  probable  that  Walpole  derived  this  view  of  Sir  Thomas  More 
from  Burnet's  History  of  the  Reforination. 

Burnet  writes  :  "  More  was  not  governed  by  interest,  nor  did 
he  aspire  so  to  preferment  as  to  stick  at  nothing  that  might  con- 
tribute to  raise  him  ;  nor  was  he  subject  to  the  vanities  of 
popularity.  The  integrity  of  his  whole  life  and  the  severity  of 
his   morals  cover  him  from  all  these   suspicions.     If  he   had 

254  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

been  formerly  corrupted  by  a  superstitious  education,  it  had 
been  no  extraordinary  thing  to  see  so  good  a  man  grow  to  be 
misled  by  the  force  of  prejudice.  But  how  a  man  who  had 
emancipated  himself,  and  had  got  into  a  scheme  of  free  thoughts, 
could  be  so  entirely  changed  cannot  be  easily  apprehended, 
nor  how  he  came  to  muffle  up  his  understanding  and  deliver 
himself  up  as  a  property  to  the  blind  and  enraged  fury  of  the 
priests.  It  cannot,  indeed,  be  accounted  for  but  by  charging  it 
on  the  intoxicating  charms  of  that  religion,  that  can  darken  the 
clearest  understandings  and  corrupt  the  best  natures ;  and 
since  they  wrought  this  effect  on  Sir  Thomas  More,  I  cannot 
but  conclude  that  'if  these  things  were  done  in  the  green  tree, 
what  shall  be  done  in  the  dry  ?  '"  * 

In  our  own  day  the  same  accusation  of  cruelty,  and  the  same 
explanation,  have  been  renewed  by  a  popular  historian.  Mr. 
Froude  writes  :  "Wolsey  had  chastised  them  [the  innovators] 
with  whips ;  Sir  Thomas  More  would  chastise  them  with 
scorpions,  and  the  philosopher  of  the  Utopia^  the  friend  of 
Erasmus,  whose  life  was  of  blameless  beauty,  whose  genius  was 
cultivated  to  the  highest  attainable  perfection,  was  to  prove  to 
the  world  that  the  spirit  of  persecution  is  no  peculiar  attribute 
of  the  pedant,  the  bigot,  or  the  fanatic,  but  may  co-exist  with 
the  fairest  graces  of  the  human  character.  The  lives  of  re- 
markable men  usually  illustrate  some  emphatic  truth.  Sir 
Thomas  More  may  be  said  to  have  lived  to  illustrate  the 
necessary  tendencies  of  Romanism,  in  an  honest  mind  convinced 
of  the  truth  ;  to  show  that  the  test  of  sincerity  in  a  man  who 
professes  to  regard  orthodoxy  as  an  essential  of  salvation  is 
not  the  readiness  to  endure  persecution,  but  the  courage  that 
will  venture  to  inflict  it."t 

*  History  of  Rcfoinnation,  iii.  g8  (Pocock).  When  Burnet  thus  wrote 
the  penal  laws  against  the  Catholics  were  making  their  lives  a  burden. 

t  History  of  England,  ii.  73.  It  is  instructive  to  mark  that  what 
Burnet  calls  vaguely  "  intoxicating  charms  "  Froude  calls  dogmatic  faith, 
and  a  belief  that  faith  is  required  by  God  for  salvation. 


Such  is  the  accusation.  Let  us  now  hear  Sir  Thomas's  own 
statement  of  the  case,  made  in  the  spring  of  1533  :  "  As  touch- 
ing heretics,  I  hate  that  vice  of  theirs  and  not  their  persons, 
and  very  fain  would  I  that  the  one  were  destroyed  and  the 
other  saved.  And  that  I  have  toward  no  man  any  other  mind 
than  this — how  loudly  soever  these  blessed  new  brethren  and 
professors  and  preachers  of  heresy  belie  me — if  all  the  favour 
and  pity  that  I  have  used  among  them  to  their  amendment 
were  known,  it  would,  I  warrant  you,  well  and  plain  appear ; 
whereof,  if  it  were  requisite,  I  could  bring  forth  witnesses  more 
than  men  would  ween. 

"  Howbeit,  because  it  were  neither  right  nor  honesty  that 
any  man  should  look  for  more  thank  than  he  deserveth,  I  will 
that  all  the  world  wit  it  on  the  other  side,  that  who  so  be  so 
deeply  grounded  in  malice,  to  the  harm  of  his  own  soul  and 
other  men's  too,  and  so  set  upon  the  sowing  of  seditious 
heresies,  that  no  good  means  that  men  may  use  unto  him  can 
pull  that  malicious  folly  out  of  his  poisoned,  proud,  obstinate 
heart,  I  would  rather  be  content  that  he  were  gone  in  time, 
than  overlong  to  tarry  to  the  destruction  of  other."  * 

If,  then.  Sir  Thomas  More  requires  a  defence,  no  such 
apology  can  be  set  up  for  him  as  may  be  valid  for  the  judges, 
who  administered  our  cruel  penal  code  with  regard  to  theft,  in 
the  early  years  of  the  present  century — viz.,  that  not  being 
legislators  they  were  not  responsible  for  the  barbarity  of  the 
laws,  and  that  being  judges  they  were  bound  to  pass  sentence 
according  to  the  laws  as  they  found  them.  Such  a  defence  is 
not  applicable  to  the  case  of  Sir  Thomas  More.  It  would 
exonerate  him  from  any  charge  of  injustice,  if  it  can  be  shown 
(as  it  certainly  can)  that  he  did  not  go  beyond  the  law.  But 
as  regards  the  imputation  of  a  cruel  disposition.  Sir  Thomas 
would  reject  a  defence  based  on  the  supposition  that  he  was 
the  reluctant  administrator  of  laws,  the  existence  of  which  he 

*  Apology,  ch.  xlix.  ;  English  Works,  p.  925. 

256  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

regretted.  In  his  Apology^  written  after  he  had  ceased  to  act 
as  judge,  he  fully  and  heartily  approves  of  the  laws,  both 
ecclesiastical  and  civil,  that  then  existed  in  England  against 
heresy,  and  he  maintains  that  these  laws  had  been  administered 
with  the  utmost  leniency  and  indeed  with  a  dangerous  laxity.* 

The  first  question  then  that  occurs  is  with  regard  to  More's 
consistency.  Did  his  later  theories  and  practice  contradict  the 
more  generous  philosophy  of  his  youth  ?  That  the  reader  may 
judge  for  himself,  I  will  give  without  abridgment  a  passage  from 
Utopia  in  Burnet's  translation. 

After  stating  that  in  Utopia  there  were  several  sorts  of  religion — 
some  idolatrous,  some  monotheistical — and  that  the  higher  views 
were  gradually  setting  aside  the  others,  Raphael  (the  supposed 
traveller)  says  that  Christianity  also  had  been  lately  introduced 
by  himself  and  his  companions.    He  then  continues  as  follows : — 

"  Those  among  them  that  have  not  received  our  religion  do 
not  fright  any  from  it,  and  use  none  ill  that  goes  over  to  it,  so 
that  all  the  while  I  was  there  one  man  only  was  punished  on 
this  occasion.  He  being  newly  baptised  did,  notwithstanding 
all  that  we  could  say  to  the  contrary,  dispute  publicly  concerning 
the  Christian  religion,  with  more  zeal  than  discretion,  and  with 
so  much  heat,  that  he  not  only  preferred  our  worship  to  theirs, 
but  condemned  all  their  rites  as  profane,  and  cried  out  against 
all  that  adhered  to  them  as  impious  and  sacrilegious  persons, 
that  were  to  be  damned  to  everlasting  burnings.  Upon  his 
having  frequently  preached  in  this  manner  he  was  seized,  and 
after  trial  he  was  condemned  to  banishment,  not  for  having 
disparaged  their  religion,  but  for  his  inflaming  the  people  to 
sedition;  for  this  is  one  of  their  most  ancient  laws,  that  no  man 
ought  to  be  punished  for  his  religion. 

"  At  the  first  constitution  of  their  government,  Utopus  under- 
stood that,  before  his  coming  among  them,  the  old  inhabitants 
had  been   engaged   in  great  quarrels  concerning   religion,  by 

*  So  also  in  his  defence  of  his  Apology  (Salem  and  Bizance,  ch.  xiv., 
p.  958),  etc. 


which  they  were  so  divided  among  themselves,  that  he  found  it 
an  easy  thing  to  conquer  them,  since,  instead  of  uniting  their 
forces  against  him,  every  different  party  in  rehgion  fought  by 
themselves.  After  he  had  subdued  them  he  made  a  law  that 
every  man  might  be  of  what  religion  he  pleased,  and  might 
endeavour  to  draw  others  to  it  by  the  force  of  argument  and  by 
amicable  and  modest  ways,  but  without  bitterness  against  those 
of  other  opinions  ;  but  that  he  ought  to  use  no  other  force  but 
that  of  persuasion,  and  was  neither  to  mix  with  it  reproaches 
nor  violence ;  and  such  as  did  otherwise  were  to  be  condemned 
to  banishment  or  slavery. 

"This  law  was  made  by  Utopus,  not  only  for  preserving  the 
public  peace,  which  he  saw  suffered  much  by  daily  contentions 
and  irreconcilable  heats,  but  because  he  thought  the  interest  of 
religion  itself  required  it.  He  judged  it  not  fit  to  determine 
anything  rashly ;  and  seemed  to  doubt  whether  those  different 
forms  of  religion  might  not  all  come  from  God,  who  might 
inspire  man  in  a  different  manner,  and  be  pleased  with  this 
variety  ;  he  therefore  thought  it  indecent  and  foolish  for  any 
man  to  threaten  and  terrify  another  to  make  him  believe  what 
did  not  appear  to  him  to  be  true.*  And  supposing  that  only 
one  religion  was  really  true,  and  the  rest  false,  he  imagined  that 
the  native  force  of  truth  would  at  last  break  forth  and  shine 
bright,  if  supported  only  by  the  strength  of  argument,  and 
attended  to  with  a  gentle  and  unprejudiced  mind;  while,  on  the 
other  hand,  if  such  debates  were  carried  on  with  violence  and 
tumults,  as  the  most  wicked  are  always  the  most  obstinate,  so 
the  best  and  most  holy  religion  might  be  choked  with  supersti- 
tion, as  corn  is  with  briars  and  thorns  ;  he  therefore  left  men 

*  Burnet's  translation  is  here  rather  free.  The  Latin  is  "  Certe  viae 
minis  exigere  ut,  quod  tu  verum  credis  idem  omnibus  videatur,  hoc  vero 
et  insolens  et  ineptum  ctnsuit,"  i.e.,  "  To  req,uire  by  violence  and  threats 
that  what  you  believe  to  be  true  should  be  accepted  as  true  by  all,  this 
he  thought  both  indecent  and  foolish  ". 


258  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

wholly  to  their  liberty,  that  they  might  be  free  to  believe  as  they 
should  see  cause. 

"Only  he  made  a  solemn  and  severe  law  against  such  as  should 
so  far  degenerate  from  the  dignity  of  human  nature,  as  to  think 
that  our  souls  died  with  our  bodies,  or  that  the  world  was 
governed  by  chance,  without  a  wise  overruling  Providence :  for 
they  all  formerly  believed  that  there  was  a  state  of  rewards  and 
punishments  to  the  good  and  bad  after  this  life  ;  and  they  now 
look  on  those  that  think  otherwise  as  scarce  fit  to  be  counted 
men,  since  they  degrade  so  noble  a  being  as  the  soul,  and  reckon 
it  no  better  than  a  beast's :  thus  they  are  far  from  looking  on 
such  men  as  fit  for  human  society,  or  to  be  citizens  of  a  well- 
ordered  commonwealth ;  since  a  man  of  such  principles  must 
needs,  as  oft  as  he  dares  do  it,  despise  all  their  laws  and 
customs  :  for  there  is  no  doubt  to  be  made,  that  a  man  who  is 
afraid  of  nothing  but  the  law,  and  apprehends  nothing  after 
death,  will  not  scruple  to  break  through  all  the  laws  of  his 
country,  either  by  fraud  or  force,  when  by  this  means  he  may 
satisfy  his  appetites.  They  never  raise  any  that  hold  these 
maxims  either  to  honours  or  ofiices,  nor  employ  them  in  any 
public  trust,  but  despise  them,  as  men  of  base  and  sordid  minds. 
Yet  they  do  not  punish  them,  because  they  lay  this  down  as  a 
maxim,  that  a  man  cannot  make  himself  believe  whatever  he 

This  passage  of  the  Utopia  was  no  doubt  in  Burnet's  mind 
when  he  referred  to  More's  having  once  "  got  into  a  scheme  of 
free  thoughts  ".  Sir  James  Mackintosh,  a  real  lover  of  liberty, 
very  different  from  Burnet,  has  written  on  this  subject  as 
follows :  "  It  is  evident  that  the  two  philosophers  (More  and 
Erasmus),  who  found  all  their  fair  visions  dispelled  by  noise  and 
violence,  deeply  felt  the  injustice  of  citing  against  them,  as  a 
proof  of  inconsistency,  that  they  departed  from  the  pleasantries, 
the  gay  dreams,  at  most  the  fond  speculations,  of  their  early 
days,  when  they  saw  these  harmless  visions  turned  into  weapons 
of   destruction  in    the    blood-stained  hands  of   the   boors    of 


Saxony,  and  of  the  ferocious  fanatics  of  Munster.  The  virtuous 
love  of  peace  might  be  more  prevalent  in  More:  the  Epicurean 
desire  of  personal  ease  predominated  more  in  Erasmus.  But 
both  were,  doubtless  from  commendable  or  excusable  causes, 
incensed  against  those  odious  disciples,  who  now,  with  no 
friendly  voice,  invoked  their  authority  against  themselves."  * 

Though  I  have  cited  with  pleasure  this  passage  from  an 
eminent  writer,  because  it  has  a  bearing  on  several  things 
written  by  More  in  his  Utopia,  I  can  scarcely  adopt  it  as 
regards  the  special  matter  of  toleration  we  are  now  consider- 
ing ;  for  I  do  not  find  that  More's  early  theories  on  this 
subject  were  ever  brought  as  a  reproach  against  him  during 
his  own  lifetime,  much  less  that  the  innovators  whom  he 
resisted  and  prosecuted  ever  appealed,  in  favour  of  their 
own  liberty,  to  general  principles  of  toleration.  More  himself 
has  put  the  following  wish  into  the  mouth  of  his  interlocutor 
in  his  Dialogue:  "I  would,"  says  his  friend,  "all  the  world 
were  agreed  to  take  all  violence  and  compulsion  away,  upon 
all  sides.  Christian  and  heathen,  and  that  no  man  were  con- 
strained to  believe  but  as  he  could  be,  by  grace,  wisdom  and 
good  works,  induced;  and  then  he  that  would  go  to  God,  go 
on  in  God's  name,  and  he  that  will  go  to  the  devil,  the  devil 
go  with  him  ".+  This  is  perhaps  the  modern  theory  put  in  a 
homely  way ;  but  before  giving  More's  answer,  let  me  say  that 
this  was  not  the  theory  of  the  Lutherans  with  whom  More  had 
to  do.  They  pleaded  for  liberty  as  having  exclusively  the 
truth,  but  they  never  thought  of  giving  liberty  to  Catholics. 
The  Mass  was  to  be  forcibly  abolished  as  a  horrible  idolatry, 
the  monks  to  be  dragged  from  their  cloisters,  and  if  necessary 
whipped  at  a  cart's  tail  till  they  would  marry  and  work,:j:  and 
the  gospel  of  Luther  forced  by  the  civil  power  upon  the  world. 

*  Life  of  More,  p.  98. 

■\  Dialogue,  iv.  13,  English  Works,  p.  275. 

X  See  Fish's  Stipplieation  of  Beggars.     "  Tie  these  holy  idle  thieves 
to  the  carts,  to  be  whipped  naked  about  every  market  town."' 

26o  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

The  state  of  things  that  More  supposes  in  his  Utopia  had 
nothing  parallel  in  that  age  either  among  Catholics  or  Protes- 
tants. Some  may  think  that  he  approximately  describes  the 
present  state  of  England ;  in  which  case,  could  he  rise  again, 
himself  unchanged,  in  our  changed  state  of  society,  he  would 
doubtless  plead  for  quiet  and  mutual  forbearance,  as  did  his 
Portuguese  friend,  Raphael,  in  the  conversation  at  Antwerp. 

For  my  own  part,  I  can  find  no  evidence  of  change  of  views, 
or  of  inconsistency  in  the  author  of  the  Utopia.     In  that  work 
More  is   discoursing  of  people  who   had  no   revelation  from 
God,  and  he  condemns  their  acrimonious  disputes  and  intoler- 
ance in  matters  of  pure  reason  or  natural  tradition.     Before  he 
can  be  accused  of  inconsistency,  it  should  be  shown  that  the 
social  and  religious  problems,  discussed   by  him   in  his  later 
English   writings,   were  analogous  to    those   contemplated   by 
King  Utopus,  and  if  so,  that  he  solved  them  differently.     Did 
he,   in  later  years,   teach  that  men    left  by  God   to  the  pure 
exercise  of  their  reason,  should  not  also  be  left  free  by  their 
rulers,   "to  seek  God,  if  happily  they  may  feel  after  Him  and 
find  Him  "  ?  *     Did  he  ever  teach  that  the  unbaptised  heathen 
should  be  compelled  by  force  to  accept  the  true  faith  ?     Did 
he  ever  teach  that  men  brought  up  from  childhood  in  heresy, 
and  in  atheism  and  materialism,  and  dazed  and  bew^ildered  by 
the  multitude  of  opinions  around  them,  should  be  punished 
because  they  could  not  see  their  way  to  certainty  or  unity  ? 
On  the  contrary,  it  was  because  he  foresaw  this  very  state  of 
things  as   the  result  of  Luther's  revolt,  and  grieved   over  it ; 
because  he  foresaw  that  if  once  unity  were  broken  up,  and 
the    Catholic    faith   called   in    question,   the  people  would  be 
"tossed  about  with  every  wind  of  doctrine,  by  the  wickedness 
of  men,   by  cunning  craftiness,  by  which  they  lie  in  wait  to 
deceive, "+  he  therefore  met  these  innovations  with  an  energy 
inspired  no  less  by  his  love  of  freedom  of  thought,  than  by  his 

*  Acts  xvii.  27.  \Eph.  iv.  14. 


love  of  his  country.  He  thought,  and  he  wrote  over  and  over 
again,  that  there  was  no  slavery  like  the  slavery  of  sectarianism, 
and  no  freedom  like  that  enjoyed  where  all  have  one  unchange- 
able faith.  Did  More  understand  the  word  heretic  as  it  is 
generally  understood  in  England  at  the  present  day  ?  I  am 
not  proposing  a  theological,  but  a  historical  question.  I  am 
not  asking  whether  More  was  right  or  wrong  in  his  judgment 
regarding  heresy,  but  what  did  he  mean  by  it  ?  To  most  Pro- 
testants, orthodoxy  can  only  mean  for  each  man  his  private 
opinion  or  conviction  in  matters  of  religion,  while  heresy  can 
only  be  a  nickname  for  his  neighbour's  views.  It  does  not 
require  a  mind  of  More's  acuteness,  or  a  character  of  his 
fairness,  to  see  at  a  glance  that,  in  such  circumstances,  mutual 
forbearance  is  the  strictest  of  duties,  and  that  no  one  should 
be  violently  repressed  but  he  who  violently  disturbs  his 

To  More  the  word  heresy  conveyed  a  very  different  meaning. 
It  was  the  private  choice,  by  an  individual,  of  a  doctrine  con- 
tradictory to  that  held  to  be  clearly  revealed  by  the  divinely 
guided  society  to  which  that  individual  had  belonged.  More 
himself  points  out  *  (and  it  is  his  views  we  are  discussing),  that 
according  to  St.  Paul,  not  only  is  heresy  or  faction  in  religion 
classed  with  grievous  sins  like  murder,  theft,  and  adultery, t  but 
it  is  supposed  by  him  to  be  as  easily  recognised  and  proved  ; 
so  that  the  ruler  of  the  spiritual  society  can  admonish  and 
reprove  and  ultimately  reject  the  criminal,  and  cast  him  forth 
from  the  society,  either  delivering  him  over  to  Satan,  like 
Hymeneus  and  Alexander,  that  he  may  learn  not  to  blaspheme, 
or  at  least  warning  and  commanding  the  society  to  avoid  him 
as  a  pestilence.  X 

To  More  a  heretic  was  neither  a  simple  man  erring  by  ignor- 

*  English  Works,  p.  828. 
t  Gal.  V.  20. 

I  Tit.  iii.  10;  I  Tim.  i,  20;  2  Tim.  ii.  17 — passages  frequently 
quoted  by  More. 

262  SIR    THOIMAS    MORE. 

ance,  nor  a  learned  man  using  his  freedom  in  doubtful  points : 
he  was  a  man  whose  heart  was  "  proud,  poisoned,  and 
obstinate,"  because  he  denied  the  Divine  guidance  of  the 
Church  into  which  he  had  been  baptised,  while  he  claimed 
special  Divine  inspiration  for  himself. 

But  this  is  not  an  adequate  explanation  of  More's  aversion 
to  Lutheranism  and  of  his  conduct  towards  it.  What  has  been 
said  would  apply  to  all  heresy,  though  it  were  limited  to  the  most 
abstruse  points  of  revelation,  and  though  its  holder  took  no 
pains  to  propagate  it.  The  zeal,  the  indignation  and  the  horror  of 
Sir  Thomas  More  were  aroused,  because  to  him  the  Lutheran 
doctrines,  as  they  first  came  before  the  world,  appeared  as  the 
denial  of  everything  that  the  Christian  people  had  hitherto 
held  in  veneration,  and  as  uprooting  the  foundation  of  all 
morals.  We  have  seen  what  he  wrote  about  it  in  his  Latin 
work,  under  the  name  of  Ross.  As  time  went  on  he  painted 
it  in  still  darker  colours,  as  fuller  accounts  came  of  the  excesses 
in  Germany  and  Switzerland.  "  Is  it  not  a  wonderful  thing," 
he  asks,  in  his  Dialogue^  written  in  1528 — "Is  it  not  a  wonder- 
ful thing,  that  we  should  now  see  a  lewd  friar  so  bold  and 
shameless  to  marry  a  nun  and  bide  thereby,  and  be  taken  still 
for  a  Christian  man,  and  over  that,  for  a  man  meet  to  be  the 
beginner  of  a  sect,  whom  any  honest  man  would  vouchsafe  to 
follow  ?  If  our  Lord  Ciod,  whose  wisdom  is  infinite,  should 
have  set  and  studied  to  devise  a  vvay  whereby  He  might  cast  in 
our  face  the  confusion  of  our  folly,  how  might  He  have  founden 
a  more  effectual  than  to  suffer  us  that  call  ourselves  Christian 
folk,  to  see  such  a  rabble  springing  up  among  us,  as  let  not  to 
set  at  nought  all  the  doctors  of  Christ's  Church,  and  lean  to  the 
only  authority  of  Friar  Tuck  and  Maid  Marion  ?  "  * 

AVe  have  not,  however,  yet  reached  the  full  motive  of  More's 
conduct.     It  was  because  the  buffooneries  and  infamies  of  Friar 

*  Dialogue,  iv.  ch.  g.  English  Works,  p.  260.  It  is  perhaps  needless 
to  say  that  Friar  Tuck  and  Maid  Marion  were  the  low  buftbons  in  the 
pageants  of  Robin  Hood. 


Tuck  were  united  with  the  outrages  and  violence  of  Robin  Hood 
that  More  justified  their  suppression  by  force.  This  is  the  answer 
he  gives  to  his  friend  who  wished  that  everyone  might  be  left 
free  to  go  to  the  devil  if  he  chose.  Yes,  replies  More,  but  he 
shall  not  drag  society  with  him.  It  is  here  I  find  a  perfect 
consistency  with  the  opinions  he  had  expressed  in  Utopia. 
King  Utopus,  he  says,  having  no  means  of  attaining  unity, 
enforced  moderation  and  mutual  toleration,  where  he  had  found 
nothing  but  confusion  and  bitterness,  because  that  contention 
had  weakened  the  country  and  laid  it  open  to  foreign  conquest. 
More,  on  the  contrary,  was  the  highest  magistrate  in  a  country 
hitherto  in  perfect  peace  and  unity  in  religious  matters. 
The  Catholic  Church  had  held  exclusive  possession  of  England 
for  nearly  a  thousand  years,  and  its  doctrines,  discipline,  and 
institutions  had  leavened  every  part  of  English  life.  The  policy 
of  Utopus  would  certainly  have  allowed  no  heated  dissensions 
to  be  introduced  to  break  up  this  unity.  He  who  would  not 
allow  the  materialists  to  propagate  their  opinions,  would  have 
given  no  licence  to  false  spiritualists  "  to  bring  in  sects 
blaspheming  ". 

This  is  the  contention  of  Sir  Thomas  More  throughout  his 
many  voluminous  works  of  controversy.  He  says  that  "  it  was 
the  violent  cruelty  first  used  by  the  heretics  themselves  against 
good  Catholic  folk  that  drove  good  princes  thereto,  for  preserva- 
tion not  of  the  faith  only,  but  also  of  peace  among  the  people''.* 
He  enters  fully  into  the  history  of  the  treatment  of  heretics. 
The  Church,  he  maintains,  had  in  no  age  punished  them  by 
death.  The  State  had  done  it  in  self-defence,  and  had  called 
on  the  Church  to  define  heresy,  to  judge  the  fact  and  deliver 
the  relapsed  heretic  into  the  hands  of  the  civil  power.  The 
State  (he  maintains)  only  did  this  when  it  had  attained  peace 
and  unity  by  means  of  the  Church,  and  when  it  was  found  by 
experience  that  heretics  ever  stirred  up  sedition  and  rebellion, 

*  English  Works,  p.  275.  See  also  p.  570,  where  he  enters  into 
much  detail. 

264  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

and  if  allowed  to  spread,  brought  about  division  and  ruin.  He 
points  to  the  history  of  Lollardy  in  England  in  the  time  of 
Henry  IV.  and  Henry  V. ;  and  to  the  fearful  results  of  Lutheranism 
in  Germany,  in  the  violent  destruction  of  the  Catholic  Church 
in  some  lands,  the  wars  of  the  peasants  in  others ;  to  the  di- 
vision of  the  empire  making  it  unable  to  resist  the  threatened 
invasion  of  the  Turks ;  and  to  that  general  break-up  of  what 
was  called  Christendom,  which  w^ould  be  the  inevitable  con- 
sequence of  the  spread  of  these  principles.  * 

Let  us  now  turn  from  the  theories  of  More  to  his  personal 
practice.  Was  he  ever  cruel  or  unjust  ?  It  is  surely  a  bold 
thing  to  accuse  him  of  this  after  his  own  challenge.  In  1532 
an  anonymous  writer  under  the  character  of  a  peace-maker  had 
thrown  great  blame  on  the  proceedings  of  the  clergy,  but  always 
in  general  terms,  as,  "Some  say,"  "Many  say,"  etc.  Sir 
Thomas  writes :  "  Let  this  pacifier  come  forth  and  appear 
before  the  king's  Grace  and  his  Council,  or  in  what  place  he  list, 
and  there  prove,  calling  me  thereto,  that  any  one  of  all  these 
had  wrong — but  if  it  were  for  that  they  were  burned  no  sooner. 
And  because  he  shall  not  say  that  I  bid  him  trot  about  for 
naught,  this  shall  I  proffer  him,  that  I  will  bind  myself  for 
surety,  and  find  him  other  twain  besides  of  better  substance 
than  myself,  that  for  every  one  of  these  whom  he  proveth 
wronged,  his  ordinary  or  his  other  officer  by  whom  the  wrong 
was  done,  shall  give  this  pacifier  all  his  costs  about  the  proof 
and  a  reasonable  reward  besides.  And  yet  now,  though  no 
man  would  give  him  nothing,  it  were  his  part,  perdie  !  to  prove 
it  for  his  own  honesty,  since  he  hath  said  so  far."  t 

This  public  challenge  met  with  no  response  in  More's  life- 

*  Sir  James  Mackintosh  thinks  him  unfair  in  attributing  the  awful 
outrages  of  the  Sack  of  Rome  in  1527  mainly  to  the  Lutherans.  Dr. 
Brewer,  however,  seems  to  distribute  the  guilt  between  the  Lutherans  and 
the  semi-christianised  Saracens  in  the  army  of  the  Constable  of  Bourbon. 
What  More  tells  on  this  subject  [Dialogue  iv.  ch.  7)  is  too  hideous  to 

•f  Apology,  ch.  XXV. 


time.  Thirty  years  after  his  death  the  Protestant  martyrologist 
Foxe  brought  forward  some  stories  of  More's  cruelty,  which  are 
the  sole  foundation  on  which  Burnet  and  other  writers  have 
grounded  their  accusations  of  his  having  "delivered  himself  up 
as  a  property  to  the  blind  and  enraged  fury  of  the  priests  ". 

In  his  account  of  John  Tewkesbury,  a  pouchmaker  or  leather- 
seller  of  London,  Foxe  writes  as  follows  :  "  He  was  sent  from 
the  Lollard's  Tower*  to  my  Lord  Chancellor's,  called  Sir 
Thomas  More,  to  Chelsea,  with  all  his  articles  [i.e.,  the  articles 
of  accusation],  to  see  whether  he  could  turn  him,  and  that  he 
might  accuse  others  ;  and  there  he  lay  in  the  porter's  lodge, 
hand,  foot  and  head  in  the  stocks,  six  days  without  release. 
Then  was  he  carried  to  Jesii  s  Ti'ee  in  his  privy  garden,  where 
he  was  whipped  and  also  twisted  in  his  brows  with  a  small  rope, 
that  the  blood  started  out  of  his  eyes,  and  yet  would  not  accuse 
no  man.  Then  was  he  let  loose  in  the  house  for  a  day,  and  his 
friends  thought  to  have  him  at  liberty  the  next  day.  After  this 
he  was  sent  to  be  racked  in  the  Tower,  till  he  was  almost  lame 
and  there  promised  to  recant."  f 

Again,  of  James  Bainham,  a  lawyer,  Foxe  writes  that  he  also 
was  whipped  in  Sir  Thomas's  garden  at  the  Tree  of  Truth,  and 
then  sent  to  the  Tower  to  be  racked,  "  and  so  he  was.  Sir 
Thomas  More  being  present  himself,  till  in  a  manner  he  had 
lamed  him  "'.J 

Burnet  says  that  Sir  Thomas  "looked  on,  and  saw  him  put 
to  the  rack  ".  § 

Foxe  wrote  in  the  time  of  Elizabeth,  and  he  has  been  proved 
to  have  picked  up  every  bit  of  traditional  gossip,  and  to  have 
added  so  many  inventions  and  embellishments  of  his  own,  that 
unless  where  he  gives  documents  his  testimony  is  of  no  value. 

As  regards  Tewkesbury,  his  first  examination,  after  which  he 

*  Part  of  old  St.  Paul's,  not  of  Lambeth. 
\  Book  of  Martyrs,  iv.  689  (ed.  Townsend). 
\Ib.,  iv.  698. 
%  History  of  Reformation,  i.  270  (ed.  Pocock). 

266  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

retracted,  was  on  8th  May,  1529,  and  this  was  several  months 
before  Sir  Thomas  was  chancellor.  The  story,  therefore,  of 
his  torture  in  More's  garden  is  clearly  mythical.  Foxe  has 
strangely  mixed  up  the  stories  of  Tewkesbury  and  Bainham  ; 
both  are  whipped  at  a  tree  in  Sir  Thomas  More's  garden,  though 
whether  the  Tree  of  Jesus  was  the  same  as  the  Tree  of  Truth 
we  are  not  told  ;  both  are  sent  to  the  Tower  and  racked ;  both 
retract ;  both  are  afterwards  overcome  by  remorse,  and  publicly 
bewail  their  retractation  to  their  friends  in  a  conventicle  in  Bowe 
Lane,  and  then  afterwards  make  a  public  protest  in  a  church, 
and  so  both  are  condemned  to  be  burnt.  These  are  strange 
coincidences ;  but  it  is  still  more  strange  that  a  part  of  what 
Foxe  had  written  of  Tewkesbury  in  one  edition,  in  another 
edition  he  omitted,  and  tacked  on  to  his  account  of  Bainham.*" 
The  accuracy  of  P'oxe  may  be  judged  from  the  fact  that  he  im- 
putes the  death  of  Frith  to  More,  yet  Frith  died  in  1533,  and 
More  had  resigned  his  office  a  year  before. f 

Foxe  does  not  seem  to  have  been  the  inventor  of  the  story 
of  the  whippings  and  racking,  for  in  the  36th  chapter  of  his 
Apology  Sir  Thomas  refers  to  some  such  lies  as  then  in 
circulation.  The  passage  is  very  important,  and  shall  be  given 
with  little  abridgment  :  "  They  that  are  of  this  brotherhood  be 
so  bold  and  so  shameless  in  lying,  that  whoso  shall  hear  them 
speak,  and  knowetn  not  what  sect  they  be  of,  shall  be  very  sore 
abused  [misled]  by  them.  Myself  have  good  experience,  for 
the  lies  are  neither  few  nor  small  that  many  of  the  blessed 
brethren  have  made,  and  daily  yet  make  by  me. 

"  Divers  of  them  have  said  that  of  such  as  were  in  my  house 
while  I  was  chancellor  I  used  to  examine  them  with  torments, 
causing  them  to  be  bound  to  a  tree  in  my  garden,  and  there 
piteously    beaten.      And    this    tale    had   some  of  those   good 

*  See  vol.  iv.  p.  702,  and  Appendix,  p.  769  (ed.  Townsend). 

t  In  his  Apology  (p.  887),  written  in  the  spring  of  1533,  More  refers  to 
Frith  as  then  in  the  Tower,  not  by  his  means,  but  by  "  the  king's  grace 
and  his  Council". 


brethren  so  caused  to  be  blown  about,  that  a  right  worshipful 
friend  of  mine  did  of  late,  within  less  than  this  fortnight,  tell 
unto  another  near  friend  of  mine  that  he  had  of  late  heard  much 
speaking  thereof. 

"What  cannot  these  brethren  say  that  can  be  so  shame- 
less to  say  thus?  For  of  very  truth,  albeit  that  for  a  great 
robbery  or  a  heinous  murder,  or  sacrilege  in  a  church, 
with  carrying  away  the  pix  with  the  Blessed  Sacrament,  or 
villainously  casting  it  out,  I  caused  sometimes  such  things  to 
be  done  by  some  officers  of  the  Marshalsea,  or  of  some  other 
])risons,  with  which  ordering  of  them,  and  without  any  great 
hurt  that  afterwards  should  stick  l)y  them,  I  found  out  and  re- 
pressed many  such  desperate  wretches  as  else  had  not  failed  to 
have  gone  farther  ;  yet,  saving  the  sure  keeping  of  heretics,  I 
never  did  cause  any  such  thing  to  be  done  to  any  of 
them  in  all  my  life,  except  only  twain.  Of  which  the  one  was 
a  child  and  a  servant  of  mine  in  mine  own  house,  whom  his 
father  had,  ere  ever  he  came  with  me,  nursled  up  in  such 
matters,  and  had  set  him  to  attend  upon  George  Jay  or  (lee, 
otherwise  called  Clerk,  which  is  a  priest,  and  is  now  for  all  that 
wedded  in  Antwerp,  into  whose  house  there  the  two  nuns 
were  brought  which  John  Birt,  otherwise  called  Adrian,  stole 
out  of  their  cloister  to  make  them  harlots.  I'his  George  Jay 
did  teach  this  child  his  ungracious  heresy  against  the  Blessed 
Sacrament  of  the  altar,  which  heresy  this  child  afterwards,  being 
in  service  with  me,  began  to  teach  another  child  in  my  house, 
which  uttered  his  counsel.  And  upon  that  point  perceived,  I 
caused  a  servant  of  mine  to  stripe  him  like  a  child  before  mine 
household,  for  amendment  of  himself  and  ensample  of  such 

"Another  was  one,  which  after  that  he  had  fallen  into  that 
frantic  heresy,  fell  soon  after  into  plain  open  frenzy  besides." 
More  then  tells  how  he  was  confined  in  bedlam,  and  when  set 
free  disturbed  public  service  in  churches,  and  committed  acts  of 
great   indecency:    "Whereupon   I,    being  advertised   of  these 

268  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

pageants,  and  being  sent  unto  and  required  by  very  devout 
religious  folk  to  take  some  other  order  with  him,  caused  him, 
as  he  came  wandering  by  my  door,  to  be  taken  by  the  constables 
and  bound  to  a  tree  in  the  street  before  the  whole  town,  and 
there  they  striped  him  with  rods  till  he  waxed  weary,  and  some- 
what longer.  And  it  appeared  well  that  his  remembrance  was 
good  enough,  save  that  it  went  about  grazing  till  it  was  beaten 
home.  For  he  could  then  very  well  rehearse  his  faults  himself, 
and  speak  and  treat  very  well,  and  promise  to  do  afterwards  as 
well.  And  verily  God  be  thanked,  I  hear  none  harm  of  him 

"  And  of  all  that  ever  came  in  my  hand  for  heresy,  as  help 
me  God,  saving  (as  1  said)  the  sure  keeping  of  them,  had  never 
any  of  them  any  stripe  or  stroke  given  them,  so  much  as  a  fillip 
on  the  forehead. 

''  But  now  tell  the  brethren  many  marvellous  lies,  of  much 
cruel  tormenting  that  heretics  had  in  my  house,  so  far  forth 
that  one  Segar,  a  bookseller  of  Cambridge,  which  was  in  mine 
house  about  four  or  five  days,  and  never  had  either  bodily  harm 
done  him,  or  foul  word  spoken  him,  hath  reported  since,  as  I 
hear  say,  to  divers,  that  he  was  bound  to  a  tree  in  my  garden, 
and  thereto  too  piteously  beaten,  and  yet  besides  that  bound 
about  the  head  with  a  cord  and  wrung  till  he  fell  down  dead  in 
a  swoon.  And  this  tale  of  his  beating  did  Tyndale  tell  to  an 
old  acquaintance  of  his  own,  and  to  a  good  lover  of  mine,  with 
one  piece  farther  yet,  that  while  the  man  was  in  beating,  I  spied 
a  little  purse  of  his  hanging  at  his  doublet,  wherein  the  poor 
man  had,  as  he  said,  five  marks,  and  that  caught  I  quickly  to 
me,  and  pulled  it  from  his  doublet  and  put  it  in  my  bosom,  and 
that  Segar  never  saw  it  after,  and  therein  I  trow  he  said  true, 
for  no  more  did  I  neither,  nor  before  neither,  nor  I  trow  no 
more  did  Segar  himself."* 

From  this  it  would  seem  that  Tindale's  report  of  Segar's  false 
tale  of  the  whipping  and  the  twisted  cord  had,  by  the  time  of 

*  EnglisJi  Works,  p.  goi. 


Foxe,  got  into  the  legend  of  Tewkesbury.  On  this  declaration 
of  Sir  Thomas  More,  Sir  James  Mackintosh  writes  as  follows  : 
"  This  statement,  so  minute,  so  easily  contradicted,  if  in  any 
part  false,  was  made  public  after  his  fall  from  power,  when  he 
was  surrounded  by  enemies  and  could  have  no  friends  but  the 
generous.  He  relates  circumstances  of  public  notoriety,  or  at 
least,  so  known  to  all  his  household,  which  it  would  have  been 
rather  a  proof  of  insanity  than  of  imprudence  to  have  alleged 
in  his  defence,  if  they  had  not  been  indisputably  and  confessedly 
true.  Wherever  he  touches  this  subject,  there  is  a  quietness 
and  a  circumstantiality,  which  are  among  the  least  equivocal 
marks  of  a  man  who  adheres  to  the  temper  most  favourable  to 
the  truth,  because  he  is  conscious  that  the  truth  is  favourable  to 
him.  .  .  .  Defenceless  and  obnoxious  as  More  then  was,  no 
man  was  hardy  enough  to  dispute  his  truth.  Foxe  was  the  first 
who,  thirty  years  afterwards,  ventured  to  oppose  it  in  a  vague 
statement,  which  we  know  to  be  in  some  respects  inaccurate ; 
and  on  this  slender  authority  alone  has  rested  such  an  imputa- 
tion on  the  veracity  of  the  most  sincere  of  men."* 

Since  the  days  of  Sir  James  Mackintosh  another  charge  has  . 
been  made  against  More.  Mr.  Anthony  Froude  writes:  "I  do 
not  intend  in  this  place  to  relate  the  stories  of  his  cruelties  in 
his  house  at  Chelsea,  which  he  himself  partially  (!)  denied,  and 
which  at  least  we  may  hope  were  exaggerated";  but  Mr.  Froude 
goes  on  to  relate  what  he  asserts  to  have  been  acts  of  illegal 
imprisonment  committed  by  More.  The  first  is  that  of  Thomas 
PhiUps  ;  the  second,  that  of  John  Field.    The  evidence  against 

*  Life  of  More,  pp.  loi,  105.  Such  tales  die  hard.  In  1889  appeared  a 
book  called  Old  Chelsea,  by  Mr.  B.  G.  Martin.  It  gives  a  most  interest- 
ing account  both  of  Sir  Thomas  More  and  his  house.  Mr.  Martin  writes 
affectionately  of  More's  "  sweet  and  wholesome  nature,"  yet  he  repeats 
Foxe's  story  of  the  floggings  (p.  39),  and  that  "  he  was  imprisoned  in  the 
very  cell,  it  is  said,  wherein  he  had  sat  as  grand  inquisitor  aforetime 
racking  heretics  "  (p.  42).  Thus  visitors  to  Chelsea  and  the  Tower, 
instead  of  a  mental  vision  of  the  real  Blessed  Thomas  More,  will  shudder 
at  the  spectres  of  scourge  and  rack. 

270  SIR    THOMAS    -MORE. 

Sir  Thomas  is  merely  that  Mr.  Froude  found  petitions  to  the 
king  drawn  up  by  the  men  themselves.  Of  the  result  of  Field's 
petition  Mr.  Froude  can  tell  nothing  ;  of  that  of  Philips  he  has 
to  tell  that  his  complaint  was  against  the  Bishop  of  London 
rather  than  against  More,  and  that  it  was  cast  aside  by  the 
House  of  Lords  as  frivolous.* 

Mr.  Froude  does  not  seem  to  be  aware  that  More  himself 
has  spoken  of  these  very  petitions.  Li  the  38th  chapter  of  his 
Apology  he  relates  how  Thomas  Philips,  a  leatherseller,  was 
brought  before  him  when  he  was  chancellor;  he  was  examined 
with  great  leniency  ("in  as  hearty  loving  manner  as  I  could") 
and  at  last  "  I  by  indenture  delivered  him  to  his  ordinary," 
but  afterwards,  for  reasons  enumerated,  "  I  advised,  and  by  my 
means  helped  that  he  was  received  prisoner  into  the  Tower. 
And  yet  after  that  he  complained  thereupon,  not  against  me  but 
against  the  ordinary.  Whereupon  the  king's  highness  com- 
manded certain  of  the  greatest  lords  of  his  Council  to  know  how 
the  matter  stood;  which  known  and  reported,  his  highness 
gave  unto  Philips  such  answer  as,  if  he  had  been  half  so  good 
as  I  would  he  were,  or  half  so  wise  as  himself  weeneth  he  wTre, 
he  would  forthwith  have  followed,  and  not  stand  still  in  his 
obstinacy  so  long,  as  he  hath  now  put  himself  thereby  in  another 
deeper  peril." 

Sir  Thomas  continues:  "Others  have  besides  this  com- 
plained that  they  have  been  unjustly  handled,  and  they  have 
nothing  gotten  but  rebuke  and  shame.  And  some  hath  been 
heard  upon  importunate  clamour,  and  the  cause  and  handling 
examined  by  the  greatest  lords  temporal  of  the  king's  most 
honourable  council,  and  that  since  I  left  the  office,  and  the 
complainour  found  in  his  complaining  so  very  shameless  false, 
that  he  hath  been  answered  that  he  was  too  easily  dealt  with, 
and  had  wrong  that  he  was  no  worse  served. "+     Sir  Thomas 

*  History  of  England,  ii.  74.  Field's  petition  is  also  in  Letters  and 
Papers,  vi.  1059. 

t  English  Works,  p.  906. 


does  not  mention  the  names  in  these  latter  cases,  nor  does  he 
say  that  the  petitions  of  redress  were  made  against  himself; 
yet  it  seems  likely  that  Field's  complaint  is  the  one  last 
enumerated.  In  any  case  history  contains  no  record  that 
when  Cromwell  and  the  Earl  of  Wiltshire,  and  More's  other 
enemies,  were  seeking  charges  against  him,  Field's  complaints 
were  considered  worthy  of  attention.  Yet  Mr.  Froude  takes 
the  fact  that  complaints  were  made  as  equivalent  to  a  proof 
that  they  were  well  founded.  Surely  the  great  chancellor's 
integrity  can  survive  a  ruder  shock  than  this.  In  the  Debella- 
cion  of  Salem  and  Bizance,  Sir  Thomas  More  again  referred 
to  the  accusations  of  harshness  as  follows :  "  The  untruth  of 
such  false  fame  hath  been  before  the  king's  honourable  council 
of  late  well  and  plainly  proved,  upon  sundry  such  false  com- 
plaints by  the  king's  gracious  commandment  examined.  And 
albeit  that  this  is  a  thing  notoriously  known,  and  that  I  have 
myself  in  mine  Apology  spoken  thereof,  and  that,  since  that 
book  gone  abroad,  it  hath  been  in  likewise  before  the  lords 
well  and  plainly  proved  in  more  matters  afresh,  and  albeit 
that  this  water  washeth  away  all  his  matter,  yet  goeth  ever 
this  water  over  this  goose's  back,  and  for  anything  that  any 
man  can  do,  no  man  can  make  it  sink  unto  the  skin,  that  she 
may  once  feel  it,  but  ever  she  shaketh  such  plain  proofs  off 
with  her  feathers  of  '  Some  say,'  and  '  They  say '  the  contrary."  * 
The  goose  is  still  shaking  her  feathers  in  Mr.  Froude's  pages. 

F'rom  all  that  has  been  gathered  together  in  this  chapter, 
I  venture  to  conclude  that  there  is  no  evidence  of  change  in 
More's  views  as  regards  religious  liberty,  nor  did  his  genial 
character  become  deteriorated  or  soured.  He  held  strongly 
that  the  dogmatising  heretics  of  those  days,  in  the  then 
circumstances  of  England  and  Christendom,  should  be  forcibly 
repressed,  and  if  necessary  ])unished  even  by  death,  according 
to  the  existing  laws.  Yet  in  the  administration  of  those  laws 
he  was  not  only  rigidly  upright,  but  as  tender  and  merciful  as 

*  English  Works,  p.  962. 

272  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

is  compatible  with  the  character  and  office  of  a  judge.  "  What 
other  controversiahst  can  be  named,"  asks  Sir  James  Mackin- 
tosh, "  who,  having  the  power  to  crush  antagonists  whom  he 
viewed  as  the  disturbers  of  the  quiet  of  his  own  dechning 
years,  the  destroyers  of  all  the  hopes  zvhich  he  had  cherished  for 
inafiki?id,  contented  himself  with  severity  of  language  ?  "  * 

*  Ljfc  of  More,  p.  iii. 



Section  I.     Zeal  for  the  Faith. 

THE  task  before  me  in  this  chapter  is  beset  with  no  ordinary 
difficulties.  The  Enghsh  controversial  works  of  Sir 
Thomas  More  fill  more  than  a  thousand  of  the  large, 
double  column,  closely  printed  pages  of  the  great  collection  of 
his  works,  equal  to  perhaps  six  volumes  like  the  present.  To 
pass  these  by  with  a  general  allusion  would  be  as  incongruous 
in  a  biographer  of  More  as  for  the  writer  of  Lord  Macaulay's  life 
to  say  nothing  of,  or  to  refer  vaguely  to,  his  Essays.  But  the 
biographer  of  Macaulay  supposes  his  readers  familiar  with  the 
Essays,  or  that  they  will  turn  with  eager  interest  to  those  with 
which  they  are  yet  unacquainted  when  told  of  their  character  or  of 
the  circumstances  in  which  they  were  written,  whereas  probably 
not  more  than  one  or  two  of  my  readers  has  ever  read  a  page  of 
More's  polemics,  or  will  ever  cast  an  eye  on  the  volume  that 
contains  them.  Perhaps  they  may  have  read  in  Burnet  that 
More  was  "no  divine,"  that  ''he  knew  nothing  of  antiquity," 
that  "  his  writings  were  designed  rather  for  the  rabble  than  for 
learned  men  ".*  Were  I  to  retort  that  there  is  more  solid 
Divinity,  scriptural  and  patristic  learning,  force  of  reasoning,  to 
say  nothing  of  wit,  in  the  most  hastily  written  treatise  of  More's 
than    in    Burnet's   Expositmi   of  the    Thirty-Nine  Articles,    I 

*  History  of  Reformation,  i.  557  (ed.  Pocock). 



should  be  far  below  the  truth,  yet  I  could  not  ask  a  reader  to 
accept  my  bare  assertion.  At  most  I  could  beg  him  to  suspend 
his  judgment  as  concerning  a  thing  unknown  to  him.  On  the 
other  hand,  I  cannot  reproduce  by  long  quotations  the  some- 
what antiquated  and  very  bitter  controversy  of  the  first  twenty 
years  of  Lutheranism  ;  nor  would  it  be  to  much  purpose  to 
analyse  minutely  works  that  are  quite  unlikely  to  be  read.  The 
only  course  left  to  me  is  to  give  some  account  here — as  much 
as  possible  in  More's  own  words — of  the  reasons  and  the 
method  of  his  controversy,  and  to  print  in  a  separate  volume 
extracts  of  permanent  interest  and  characteristic  of  his  style. 

We  have  already  seen  in  the  last  chapter  that  Sir  Thomas 
More  was  moved  to  his  opposition  to  the  new  doctrines  by  his 
keen  prevision  of  their  consequences,  as  well  religious  as  social. 
It  is  no  exaggeration  to  say  that  he  clearly  anticipated  and  foretold 
such  results  of  the  Lutheran  revolt  as  history  reveals  to  us  in 
the  sudden  overthrow  by  the  Scotch  fanatics  of  the  whole  fabric 
of  the  Catholic  religion  and  of  every  venerated  monument  of 
antiquity,  the  national  madness  of  the  English  Puritans,  the  im- 
pieties and  atrocities  of  the  various  French  revolutions,  or  the 
brutal  agnosticism  of  modern  secularists  in  England  and  America. 
When  he  was  chancellor  More  wrote  as  follows  :  "  In  good 
faith,  I  never  thought  other  yet,  soon  after  the  beginning,  but 
that  when  those  folk  fell  once  to  their  horrible  heresies,  which 
Tindale  in  his  books  has  taught  us,  they  should  not  fail  to  fall 
soon  after  unto  these  others  too"  {i.e.,  the  tenets  of  the  Munster 
Anabaptists,  denying  all  obligation  of  law  spiritual  or  temporal, 
rejecting  all  government,  introducing  communism  in  property, 
and  abolishing  all  marriage),  "  and  then  that  Our  Blessed 
Saviour  Christ  was  but  only  Man,  and  not  God  at  all.  And,  as 
help  me  God,  I  verily  fear  that  they  shall  fall  unto  that  at  last, 
that  there  is  no  God.  And  then,  reckoning  neither  upon  God 
nor  devil,  nor  immortality  of  their  own  souls,  but  jesting  and 
scoffing  that  '  God  is  a  good  fellow,'  and  '  as  good  a  soul  hath 
an  owl  as  a  cuckoo,'  and  '  when  thou  seest  my  soul  hang  in  the 


hedge  then  hurl  stones  at  it  hardily  and  spare  not';  and,  as 
Tindale  saith,  '  When  thou  speakest  with  St.  Peter  then  pray 
him  to  pray  for  thee'  ;  thus  reckoning  upon  nothing  but  only 
upon  this  world, '^  and  therefore  reckoning  for  nothing  but  only 
for  the  body,  they  shall  at  the  last  fall  in  a  new  rage,  and  gather 
themselves  together  (but  if  their  malice  be  the  better  suppressed) 
to  make  other  manner  masters  than  ever  they  made  yet,  whereof 
the  mischief  shall  fall  in  their  own  necks.  But  yet  if  this  may 
be  suffered  once  to  rise,  all  the  mischief  will  not  fall  in  their 
own  necks  alone,  but  much  harm  shall  hap  upon  many  good 
men's  heads,  ere  these  rebellious  wretches  be  well  repressed 
again. "t 

More  did  not  find  many  Englishmen  to  share  his  anxieties ; 
he  thus  expresses  and  laments  the  general  apathy  of  good 
Catholics :  "  If  because  we  know  our  cause  so  good  we  bear 
ourselves  thereupon  so  bold,  that  we  make  light  and  slight  of 
our  adversaries,  it  may  happen  to  fare  between  the  Catholics 
and  heretics  at  length,  as  it  fareth  sometimes  in  a  suit  at  the 
law  by  some  good  man,  against  whom  a  subtle,  wily  shrew ;{: 
beginneth  a  false  action,  and  asketh  from  him  all  the  land  he 
hath.  This  good  man  sometimes,  that  knoweth  his  matter  so 
true,  persuadeth  to  himself  that  it  were  not  possible  for  him  to 
lose  it  by  the  law\  And  when  his  counsel  talketh  with  him, 
and  asketh  him  how  he  can  prove  this  point  or  that  for  him- 
self, answereth  again  :  '  Fear  ye  not  for  that,  sir,  I  warrant  you 
all  the  country  knoweth  it.  The  matter  is  so  true  and  my 
part  so  plain,  that  I  care  not  what  judges,  what  arbiters,  what 
twelve  men  go  thereon.  I  will  challenge  no  man  for  any 
labour  that  mine  adversary  can  make  therein.'  And  with  such 
good  hope  the  good  man  goeth  him  home,  and  there  sitteth 
still  and  putteth  no  doubt  in  the  matter.     But  in  the  mean- 

*  The  very  profession  from  which  so  many  of  our  own  artisans  call 
themselves  Secularists. 

t  English  Works,  pp.  656,  657. 

X  A  shrew,  in  More's  works,  is  not  a  scold,  but  a  rogue. 

276  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

while  his  adversary,  which  for  lack  of  truth  of  his  cause  must 
needs  put  all  his  trust  in  craft,  goeth  about  his  matter  busily, 
and  by  all  the  false  means  he  may,  maketh  him  friends,  some 
with  good  fellowship,  some  with  rewards,  findeth  a  fellow  to 
forge  him  false  evidence,  maketh  means  to  the  sheriff,  getteth 
a  partial  panel,  laboureth  the  jury,  and  when  they  come  to  the 
bar  hath  all  his  trinkets  ready ;  whereas  good  Tom  Truth 
cometh  forth  upon  the  other  side,  and  because  he  weeneth  all 
the  world  knoweth  how  true  his  matter  is,  bringeth  never  a 
witness  w^ith  him,  and  all  his  evidence  unsorted.  And  one 
wist  I  once  that  brought  unto  the  bar.  when  the  jury  was 
sworn,  and  openly  delivered  his  counsel,  his  tinder  box,  with 
his  flint  and  his  matches,  instead  of  his  box  of  evidence,  for  that 
had  he  left  at  home.  So  negligent  are  good  folk  sometimes, 
when  the  known  truth  of  their  matter  maketh  them  over  bold. 

"  And  surely  much  after  this  fashion  in  many  places  play 
these  heretics  and  we.  For  like  as  a  few  birds,  always  chirk- 
ing and  flying  from  bush  to  bush,  seem  a  great  many,  so  these 
heretics  be  so  busily  walking,  that  in  every  ale-house,  in  every 
tavern,  in  every  barge,  and  almost  every  boat,  as  few  as  they  be, 
a  man  shall  always  find  some.  And  there  be  they  so  busy 
with  their  talking  (and  in  better  places  also  where  they  may 
be  heard),  so  fervent  and  importune  in  putting  forth  of  any- 
thing which  may  serve  for  the  furtherance  of  their  purpose,  that 
between  their  importunate  preaching  and  the  diligence  or 
rather  the  negligence  of  good  Catholic  men,  appeareth  oft  times 
as  great  a  difference  as  between  frost  and  fire. 

"  And  surely  between  the  true  Catholic  folk  and  the  false 
heretics,  it  fareth  also  much  like  as  it  fared  between  false  Judas 
and  Christ's  faithful  Apostles.  For  while  they,  for  all  Christ's 
calling  upon  them  to  wake  and  pray,  fell  fast  in  a  slumber,  and 
after  in  dead  sleep,  the  traitor  neither  slept  nor  slumbered,  but 
went  about  full  busily  to  betray  his  Master,  and  bring  himself 
to  mischief."* 

*  English  Works,  p.  921. 


Roper  tells  us :  "It  fortuned,  before  the  matter  of  the  king's 
matrimony  brought  in  question,  when  I,  in  talk  with  Sir 
Thomas  More,  of  a  certain  joy  commended  unto  him  the  happy 
estate  of  this  realm,  that  had  so  Catholic  a  prince  that  no 
heretic  durst  show  his  face,  so  virtuous  and  learned  a  clergy,  so 
grave  and  sound  a  nobility,  and  so  loving,  obedient  subjects, 
all  in  one  faith  agreeing  together.  '  Truth  it  is  indeed,  son 
Roper,'  quoth  he,  and  in  all  degrees  and  estates  of  the  same 
went  far  beyond  me  in  commendation  thereof;  'and  yet,  son 
Roper,  I  pray  God,'  said  he,  '  that  some  of  us,  as  high  as  we 
seem  to  sit  upon  the  mountains,  treading  heretics  under  our 
feet  like  ants,  live  not  the  day  that  we  w^ould  gladly  be  at  league 
and  composition  with  them,  to  let  them  have  their  churches 
quietly  to  themselves,  so  that  they  would  be  contented  to  let 
us  have  ours  quietly  to  ourselves.'  After  that  I  had  told  him 
many  considerations  why  he  had  no  cause  to  say  so  :  '  Well,' 
said  he,  '  I  pray  God,  son  Roper,  some  of  us  live  not  till  that 
day,'  showing  me  no  reason  why  he  should  put  any  doubt 
therein.  To  whom  I  said,  '  By  my  troth,  sir,  it  is  very  des- 
perately spoken  '  (that  vile  term,  I  cry  God  mercy,  did  I  give 
him).  Who,  by  these  words,  perceiving  me  in  a  fume,  said 
merrily  unto  me,  'It  shall  not  be  so,  it  shall  not  be  so'."* 

In  the  year  1526,  before  he  had  begun  any  of  his  own 
English  works  against  the  heretics.  More  showed  his  great  zeal 
and  anxiety  in  the  matter  in  the  following  letter  to  Erasmus. 
After  some  expressions  of  sympathy  for  his  physical  sufferings, 
he  says  that  the  Christian  world  can  ill  spare  him  and  is 
exi)ecting  some  more  of  his  excellent  works.  "  But  especially 
what  is  still  wanting  of  your  HyperaspistesA  You  can  conceive 
nothing  more  fruitful  to  all,  more  pleasing  to  your  friends,  more 
honourable  to  yourself  or  more  necessary.  You  cannot  believe 
how  eagerly  all  good  men  expect  it;  on  the  contrary,  the  bad, 

*  Notes,  no.  xiii. 

t  The  title  of  the  answer  of  Erasmus  to  Luther's  book  Dc  Servo  Arbitrio. 
Hypcraspistcs  means  "champion"  or  "protector". 

278  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

who  favour  Luther  or  envy  you,  seem  to  grow  more  bold  and 
numerous  from  your  delay  in  replying.  If  you  have  merely 
postponed  this  work  to  finish  some  other  things,  such  as  the 
hisiihition  of  Christian  Matrimony^  which  her  Majesty  the 
Queen  esteems  so  much  (as  you  will  soon,  I  trust,  feel),  I  can 
bear  the  delay.  If  you  are  taking  your  time  to  treat  the  matter 
more  accurately,  I  am  delighted,  for  I  desire  that  part  to  be 
treated  with  the  utmost  diligence.  But  if  the  reason  of  your 
delay  is,  as  some  report,  that  fear  has  caused  you  to  give  it  up, 
I  cannot  repress  my  sorrow  or  sufficiently  express  my  surprise. 
O  my  dearest  Erasmus,  God  forbid  that,  after  all  your  Hercu- 
lean labours  and  your  dangers,  after  all  the  toils  and  vigils  to 
benefit  the  world,  in  which  you  have  spent  the  best  years  of 
your  life,  you  should  begin  now  so  miserably  to  love  these 
sick  souls,  that  rather  than  lose  their  suffrage  you  should  desert 
the  cause  of  God. 

"  As  regards  myself  I  can  neither  promise  nor  hope  what  all 
expect  from  you,  from  the  well-known  examples  you  have  given 
of  a  soul  strong  and  trustful  in  God.  I  can  never  doubt  that 
to  your  life's  end,  whatever  catastrophe  may  befall,  you  will 
manifest  the  same  fortitude,  since  you  cannot  but  trust  that 
God,  who  has  allowed  this  tragedy,  will  come  in  due  time  to 
our  aid. 

"  Besides  there  is,  as  I  conceive,  just  now  no  great  reason 
to  fear,  much  less  to  be  overwhelmed  by  it.  If  the  Lutherans 
intended  to  do  anything,  they  would  have  been  more  likely  to 
do  it  before  you  answered  at  all,  for  so  they  would  have  pre- 
vented your  answering.  Or  if  they  wished  to  be  revenged  for 
what  you  have  written,  they  would  have  poured  out  their  fury 
on  you  when  your  first  book  appeared,  in  which  you  so  painted 
the  wild  beast,  and  so  pointed  out  the  evil  spirit  that  drives  him 
on,  that  you  have  made  that  smoky  and  infernal  demon  as 
visible  to  men's  eyes  as  if  you  had  dragged  Cerberus  out  of 
hell.  What  danger,  therefore,  now  remains  I  do  not  see,  which 
would  not  equally  threaten  if  you  write  no  more.     You  have 


answered  his  calumnies  against  yourself,  and  transfixed  him 
with  your  pen ;  there  now  remains  only  to  treat  the  passages 
of  Holy  Scripture ;  and  since  in  the  thousand  copies  of  your 
first  i)art  you  have  promised  the  whole  world,  as  by  so  many 
bonds,  that  you  would  diligently  execute  that  second  part,  you 
cannot  refuse  to  pursue  the  cause  of  God  after  having  success- 
fully achieved  your  own,  or  to  perform  what  you  have  publicly 
promised,  especially  since  you  can  do  it  so  easily.  Nor  is 
Luther  such  a  fool  as  to  hope  you  will  refrain,  nor  so  unjust  as 
to  dare  to  ask  it.  That  he  desires  you  to  keep  silence  I  have 
no  doubt,  however  much  he  may  pretend  a  magnificent  con- 
tempt of  you  in  his  letter,  of  which  it  is  hard  to  say  whether  it 
is  more  boastful  or  more  foolish.  He  is  conscious  enough  how 
the  miserable  glosses  by  which  he  has  tried  to  obscure  the 
most  clear  passages  of  Holy  Scripture,  cold  as  they  were  al- 
ready, become  under  your  criticism  the  merest  ice."  More 
then  begs  his  friend  to  write  a  confidential  letter,  if  there  is 
really  some  danger  that  in  England  is  not  known.  Then  after 
a  short  digression  about  the  visit  of  Holbein,  he  concludes : 
"  You  have  done  well  to  confute  in  a  pamphlet  the  opinion 
that  had  been  wickedly  spread  about  that  you  favoured  the 
heresy  of  Carldstadt.*  But,  although  I  would  gladly  see  some 
day,  if  God  grants  you  leisure,  a  treatise  on  this  subject  [the 
Holy  Eucharist]  to  confirm  our  faith,  proceeding  from  that 
heart  of  yours  which  is  made  to  defend  the  truth,  yet  I  am  so 
solicitous  regarding  the  Hyperaspistes,  that  I  trust  you  will  take 
nothing  to  heart  so  as  to  call  off  your  care  and  thought  from 
the  finishing  of  that  work.  Farewell,  dearest  of  all  mortals, 
Erasmus.  From  Greenwich,  the  i8th  December,  1526.  Yours, 
with  more  than  my  whole  heart,  Thomas  More."  t     Whether 

*  This  refers  to  a  book  published  by  Erasmus  in  1526  called  Dctcctio 
PrcrtigiarKin,  etc. 

f  Letter  334,  in  App.  inter  Epist.  Erasmi.  The  date  1525  given  by  Le 
Clerc  is  wrong,  for  the  first  part  of  Hypcnispistcs  was  not  published  till 
1526,  nor  the  Dctcctio  above  referred  to. 

28o  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

or  not  the  admonition  of  More  was  needed  to  stir  up  the  zeal 
of  Erasmus,  it  was  not  thrown  aw\ay.  The  second  book  of  the 
Hyperaspistes  appeared  in  1527.  Luther  and  Erasmus  were 
for  ever  separated,  and  Luther  never  ceased  to  denounce  his 
opponent  as  a  free-thinker,  an  empty  pedant,  a  man  to  be 
avoided  like  the  plague. 

The  accusation  did  not  on  that  account  cease  to  be  made 
by  many  Catholics  that  Luther  had  merely  carried  out  the 
principles  of  Erasmus,  and  boldly  denied  where  Erasmus  only 
hinted  doubts,  that  Luther  hatched  the  egg  laid  by  Erasmus ;  * 
yet  Erasmus  could  now  repudiate  the  charge  with  some  force  : 
"  They  lie  most  impudently  who  say  that  this  Lutheran  confla- 
gration has  been  kindled  by  my  wTitings,  for  no  one  has  been 
able  to  point  out  one  condemned  proposition  which  I  have  in 
common  with  Luther.  Collusion  between  me  and  Luther  ! 
Yes,  as  Hector  colluded  with  Achilles.  Read  my  Diatribe  (on 
Free  Will)  and  Luther's  answer,  than  which  nothing  can  be 
more  hostile,  and  read  also  the  two  books  of  my  Hyperaspistes 
in  reply  to  him.  .  .  .  There  are  some  whose  only  study  it  is  to 
gather  out  of  my  many  treatises,  some  of  which  I  wrote  when  I 
was  young  and  when  all  was  peaceable,  and  some  not  seriously, 
whatever  they  can  twist  tow^ards  a  suspicion  of  Lutheran  doc- 
trines. Even  this  they  do  most  impudently  and  calumniously. 
But  if  they  really  side  with  the  Sovereign  Pontiff,  how  much 
better  would  it  be  to  select  those  things  which  show  that  I 
differ  from  the  paradoxes  of  Luther."  f 

But  to  return  to  England. 

The  anxiety  felt  by  More  at  the  spread  of  heresy  and  its 
probable  results  was  shared  by  the  Bishop  of  London,  Cuthbert 
Tunstall.  There  existed  between  him  and  More  the  closest 
friendship  and  mutual  admiration.  They  had  acted  together 
in  several  embassies,  as  we  have  seen.     On  the  subject  of  the 

*  The  words  are  quoted  by  Erasmus  himself. 

^Ep.  345,  in  App.  The  whole  letter,  to  John  Gacchus,  a  Franciscan, 
is  one  of  Erasmus'  best.     It  was  written  from  Basle  in  1527. 


supremacy  of  the  Holy  See,  Tunstall's  views  were  erroneous,* 
and  led  him  to  acquiesce  in  Henry's  schism,  though  experience 
made  him  wiser,  and  he  was  not  only  reconciled  with  the 
Church,  but  died  in  resistance  to  the  renewal  of  the  schism  in 
the  first  year  of  Elizabeth.  But  as  regards  Lutheranism  and 
the  denial  of  the  sacraments  and  visible  Church  as  taught  by 
Tindale,  Barns,  and  the  other  English  heretics,  he  was  always 
orthodox,  and  no  one  was  more  anxious  to  stop  the  spread  of 
heretical  books.  English  books  were  being  printed  on  the  con- 
tinent and  energetically  scattered  in  England.  The  very  novelty 
and  startling  nature  of  their  denial  of  hitherto  received  belief, 
and  of  their  attack  on  ancient  and  universal  practice,  excited 
men's  curiosity,  and  won  for  them  an  attention  quite  dispropor- 
tioned  to  their  intrinsic  importance.  As  modern  evolutionist 
theories,  by  giving  a  new  explanation  of  the  universe,  and 
overthrowing  the  old  foundations  of  morality,  have  excited 
the  imagination  far  beyond  the  influence  of  their  scientific 
appeals  to  reason  ;  so  did  the  sweeping  negations  of  Luther, 
Zwingle,  and  their  followers  fascinate  the  minds  of  the  young, 
and  their  satire  on  the  clergy  was  greedily  read  by  the  irreligious 
and  discontented.  It  appeared  to  Tunstall  and  More  that  the 
mischief  being  wrought  by  these  books  could  not  be  effectually 
met  either  by  measures  of  suppressions  or  by  the  learned 
refutations  published  in  Latin  by  professed  theologians.  Eng- 
glish  books  written  in  a  popular  style,  to  defend  Catholic 
doctrines  and  expose  the  sophisms  of  the  heretics,  were 
urgently  needed  ;  and  there  was  no  man  in  England  so  fitted  for 
the  task  as  More.  Whether  the  ihought  of  More's  devoting  his 
life  to  this  work  originated  with  him  or  with  Tunstall,  we 
cannot  know.  In  Tunstall's  Register  is  the  following  document, 
dated  March,  1527,  and  addressed  to  Sir  Thomas  More: 
*'  Because  you,  most  dear  brother,  are  able  to  emulate 
Demosthenes  in  our  vernacular  tongue  no  less  than  in   Latin, 

*  I  judge   from  his  own  MS.   treatise,  which  w  ill   be  quoted  in  a   later 

252  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

and  are  wont  to  be  an  ardent  defender  of  Catholic  truth 
whenever  you  hear  it  attacked,  you  cannot  spend  the  occasional 
hours  that  you  can  steal  from  your  official  duties  better  than  in 
composing  in  our  own  language  such  books  as  may  show  to 
simple  and  unlearned  men  the  cunning  malice  of  the  heretics, 
and  fortify  them  against  these  impious  subverters  of  the 
Church  ".  (The  Bishop,  therefore,  by  the  powers  received  from 
the  Holy  See,  gives  to  Sir  Thomas  faculty  to  read  the  books  of 
heretics  for  their  refutation.)  "  For  it  is  of  great  help  towards 
victory  to  know  thoroughly  the  plans  of  the  enemy,  what  they 
hold  and  whither  they  tend  ;  for  if  you  go  about  to  refute 
what  they  protest  that  they  do  not  hold,  you  lose  your  pains. 
Engage  therefore  courageously  in  this  holy  work,  by  which  you 
will  benefit  the  Church  of  God,  make  for  yourself  an  immortal 
fame,  and  win  eternal  glory  in  heaven."  * 

Section  II.     Fruits  of  Zeal. 

I.     "  The  Dialogue." 

More's  first  work  is  in  the  form  of  a  dialogue,  and  in  his 
other  books  he  refers  to  it  by  this  title.  In  Utopia,  and  in  the 
Latin  book  against  Luther,  there  was  an  ingenious  fiction  as  to 
their  composition ;  so  also  is  this.  A  friend  of  More's  is 
supposed  to  have  sent  a  messenger,  a  young  man  studying  at 
one  of  the  universities,  and  somewhat  bitten  with  the  new 
opinions,  to  consult  More,  who  encourages  him  to  speak  out 
quite  freely  his  own  difficulties,  and  to  state  as  strongly  as  he 
can  what  he  has  heard  said  by  others.  This  gives  More  an  oppor- 
tunity of  stating  the  Lutheran  doctrines  and  objections  as  forcibly 
as  their  maintainers  could  have  themselves  desired,  and  with 
far  more  wit  than  the  best  of  them  possessed.  More  and 
the  messenger  begin  by  discussing  the  lawfulness  and  reason- 
ableness of  troubling  people  for  their  religious  belief  or  teaching. 
They  soon  get   into   the   question  of  the  use  of  images  and 

*  Burnet,  iv.  p.  13  ;  Wilkins,  iii.  711. 



pilgrimages,  and  of  praying  to  saints,  then  very  prevalent  topics. 
Thus  they  are  brought  to  discuss  the  truth  of  miracles,  and  at 
last  the  possibility  of  miracles,  and  (I  may  say  in  passing) 
Hume's  famous  argument  is  thoroughly  anticipated  and  solved. 
Thence  they  come  to  the  criterion  of  miracles,  and  whether 
they  are  worked  by  the  devil  to  lead  the  Church  into  error. 
This  brings  them  to  the  possibility  of  the  Church  being 
deceived,  and  the  means  provided  by  God  to  learn  the  truth, 
to  Scripture  and  its  interpretation  ;  the  test  of  inspiration,  and 
the  presence  of  the  Holy  Ghost  in  the  visible  Church.  In 
the  third  book  much  is  said  of  Tindale's  recent  translation  of 
the  New  Testament  into  English,  of  its  heretical  bias.  The 
fourth  book  gives  the  history  of  Luther's  own  fall,  of  his  self- 
contradiction,  and  the  results  of  his  teaching. 

More  is  supposed  to  write  a  full  account  of  all  this  discussion 
to  the  friend  who  sent  him  the  messenger.  Hence  he  uses 
perpetually  the  phrases,  Quoih  he,  Quoth  I,  and  Quoth  your 
friend  ;  so  that  the  book  was  popularly  known  as  Quod  he  and 
Quod  I.  The  Dialogue,  though  redundant  in  words,  as  was 
the  style  of  the  age,  is  never  dull,  and  theological  disputes  are 
enlivened  by  amusing  illustrations  and  merry  tales.  When 
Sir  Thomas  was  told  that  the  Hghtness  of  his  style  was  brought 
as  an  objection  against  him,  he  replied  that  the  matter  required 
no  defence  :  "  For,  as  Horace  saith,  a  man  may  sometimes  say 
full  sooth  in  game ;  and  one  that  is  but  a  layman  as  I  am,  it 
may  better  haply  become  him  merrily  to  tell  his  mind  than 
seriously  and  solemnly  to  preach.  And  over  this,  I  can  scant 
believe  that  '  the  brethren  '  find  any  mirth  in  my  books,  for  I 
have  not  much  heard  that  they  very  merrily  read  them."  * 

II.     "  Supplication  of  Souls." 

The  book  called  The  Dialogue  appeared  in  1528,  and  Sir 
Thomas  soon  found  occupation  for  his  pen  in  composing  a 
second  controversial    work,  called   The  Supplication  of  Sou/s. 

*■  English  Works,  p.  927. 

284  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

This  was  an  answer  to  The  Supplication  of  Beggajs,  an  incen- 
diary tract  that  appeared  late  in  the  same  year,  or  early 
in   1529. 

Simon  Fish,  its  author,  was  a  member  of  the  University  of 
Oxford,  and  a  law  student  in  London.  Having  publicly 
ridiculed  Wolsey,  he  fled  into  the  low  countries,  and  became 
intimate  with  some  of  the  English  exiles,  and  imbibed  their 
heresy.  It  was  there  he  composed,  in  1528,  his  Siipplication 
of  the  Beggars.  Foxe  gives  two  contradictory  accounts  of  the 
way  in  which  this  book  was  brought  to  the  knowledge  of  the 
king,  and  of  the  way  in  which  the  king  secretly  connived  at 
its  propagation.  Mr.  Creighton  thinks  it  probable  that  Henry 
saw  in  it  a  convenient  means  of  preparing  men's  minds  for  the 
ecclesiastical  revolutions  he  was  already  meditating  in  1529.* 
In  any  case  it  was  widely  spread  through  London  before  the 
meeting  of  the  parliament,  which  was  to  begin  its  work  by 
drawing  up  grievances  against  the  Church,  and  to  end  in 
formal  schism  and  heresy. 

Fish's  book  is  vigorously  written,  and  in  a  form  likely  to  take 
the  popular  fancy.  Its  statistics  of  the  number  of  parishes  in 
England,  and  the  wealth  of  the  Church,  are  acknowledged  to 
have  been  greatly  exaggerated ;  but  such  a  defect  would  be 
little  cared  for  by  the  men  likely  to  read  it.  Its  great  literary 
merit  was  that  it  was  very  short — it  fills  only  fourteen  pages  of 
the  reprint  of  the  Early  English  Text  Society.  An  answer 
can  seldom  be  as  short  as  an  objection  ;  yet  it  seems  a  pity 
that  More  never  saw  the  advantage  of  connecting  brevity  with 
wit.  Fish  had  drawn  up  his  booklet  in  the  form  of  a  petition, 
addressed  by  the  beggars  of  England  to  the  king,  complaining 
that  the  mendicant  friars  consumed  what  belonged  by  right  to 
the  diseased,  the  aged,  and  the  impotent.  In  the  course  of 
the  petition  they  allude  to  the  alms  given  to  the  friars  to  say 
Masses   for  the    dead,  and   deny   the   existence  of  purgatory. 

*  'Dictionary  of  National  Biography,  Art.  Fish. 


Mere's  religious  faith  was  outraged  no  less  than  his  social 
instincts.  His  answer  is  divided  into  two  books,  in  the  former 
of  which  he  examines  the  accuracy  of  the  charges  made  against 
the  friars  and  the  clergy  in  general,  and  shows  how  the  prin- 
ciples on  which  the  author  demands  the  confiscation  of  eccle- 
siastical goods  would  involve  the  general  plunder  of  the  rich 
by  the  poor.  In  the  second  book  he  defends  the  doctrine  of 
purgatory,  and  of  suffrages  for  the  dead. 

The  book  must  have  been  very  quickly  written,  and  perhaps 
when  More  adopted  his  opponent's  literary  form  and  made  his 
answer  a  Supplication  of  Souls  he  scarcely  foresaw  the  incon- 
gruities into  which  he  would  be  led  as  his  book  gradually 
developed  into  a  political  and  theological  treatise.  The  souls 
give  a  learned  dissertation  on  the  laws  of  mortmain,  on  the 
value  of  the  currency,  and  (for  the  refutation  of  the  beggars' 
calumnies)  enter  into  all  the  details  of  the  treatment  and  death  of 
a  certain  Richard  Hun.  Perhaps  they  could  do  all  this  better 
than  the  "  foul  unhappy  sort  of  lepers  and  other  sore  people ' 
could  have  discussed  economical  problems  and  illustrated  them 
from  the  history  of  King  Arthur  and  King  John,  as  they  do  in 
Fish's  address  to  the  king.  But  we  are  rather  startled  when, 
in  More's  pages,  the  souls  begin  to  relate  merry  tales  and  to 
make  jokes.  In  fact,  in  one  place  they  go  so  far  that  they  have 
to  apologise  to  their  readers  :  "Surely,"  they  say,  "we  cannot 
but  here  confess  the  truth,  these  nice  and  wanton  words  do  not 
very  well  with  us ;  but  we  must  pray  God  and  you  to  pardon 
us,  for,  in  good  faith,  his  matter  of  monks'  marriages  is  so 
merry  and  so  mad,  that  it  were  able  to  make  one  laugh  that 
lieth  in  the  fire  ".*  We  are  more  easily  reconciled  to  political 
discourse,  for  are  we  not  listening  to  ancient  legislators  and 
statesmen?  As  the  parliament  was  about  to  meet,  and  the 
news  had  reached  purgatory  that  plots  were  being  contrived 
against  the  clergy,  it  was  natural  for  these  holy  souls  to  give  the 

*  English  Works,  p.  306. 

286  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

benefit  of  their  experience:  "Ye  would  peradventure  ween,'' 
they  say,  "  that  the  man  (Simon  Fish)  would  now  devise  some 
good,  wholesome  laws  for  help  of  all  these  matters.  Nay,  he 
will  none  thereof,  for  he  saith  that  the  clergy  is  stronger  in  the 
parliament  than  the  king  himself.  For  in  the  higher  house  he 
reckoneth  that  the  spirituality  is  more  in  number  and  stronger 
than  the  temporality  ;  and  in  the  common  house  he  saith  that 
all  the  learned  men  of  the  realm,  except  the  king's  learned 
Council,  be  feed  with  the  Church  to  speak  against  the  king's 
crown  and  dignity,  and  therefore  he  thinketh  the  king  unable 
to  make  any  law  against  the  faults  of  the  clergy.  This  beggars' 
])roctor  would  fain  show  himself  a  man  of  great  experience,  and 
one  that  had  great  knowledge  of  the  manner  and  order  used  in 
the  king's  parliaments.  But  then  he  speaketh  so  savourly 
hereof,  that  it  well  appeareth  of  his  wise  words  he  neither 
canneth  any  skill  thereof,  nor  never  came  in  the  house.  For, 
as  for  the  higher  house,  first  the  king's  own  royal  person  alone 
more  than  counterpoiseth  all  the  lords  spiritual  present  with 
him  and  the  temporal  too.  And  over  this  the  spiritual  lords 
can  never  in  number  exceed  the  lords  temporal,  but  must  needs 
be  far  underneath  them  if  it  please  the  king.  For  His  Highness 
may  call  thither  by  his  writ  many  more  temporal  lords  at  his 
own  pleasure.  And,  being  as  they  be,  there  was  never  yet 
seen  that  the  spiritual  lords  banded  themselves  there  as  a 
party  against  the  temporal  lords  ;  but  it  hath  been  seen  that 
the  thins;  which  the  spiritual  lords  have  moved  and  thought 
reasonable,  the  temporal  lords  have  denied  and  refused,  as 
appeareth  upon  the  motion  made  for  the  legitimation  of  the 
children  born  before  the  marriage  of  their  parents,  wherein 
albeit  that  the  reformation  which  the  lords  spiritual  moved  was 
a  thing  that  nothing  pertained  to  their  own  commodity,  and 
albeit  they  laid  also  for  their  part  the  constitution  and 
ordinance  of  the  Church,  and  the  laws  of  other  Christian 
countries,  yet  could  they  not  obtain  against  the  lords  temporal, 
that  nothing  alledged  to  the  contrary  but  their  own  wills."    The 


souls  then  go  on  to  refute  what  had  been  said  of  the  lower 
house  :  "And  surely  if  he  had  been  in  the  common  house  as 
some  of  us  have  been,  he  should  have  seen  the  spirituality  not 
gladly  spoken  for,"  etc.* 

There  is  a  great  deal  worth  studying  from  a  historical  and 
political  point  of  view  in  this  treatise.  On  its  religious  aspect 
I  will  not  here  dwell ;  but  I  may  promise  the  reader  that  he 
will  find  no  dry  theological  treatise  on  sin  and  its  punishment. 
More  makes  everything  picturesque.  The  souls  thus  bewail 
the  care  they  gave  before  death  for  pompous  funerals,  and  how 
little  they  took  heed  of  their  real  wants  :  "  Much  have  we  left 
in  our  executors'  hands,  which  would  God  we  had  bestowed 
upon  poor  folk  for  our  own  souls  and  our  friends'  with  our  own 
hands.  Much  have  many  of  us  bestowed  upon  rich  men  in 
gold  rings  and  black  gowns,  much  in  many  tapers  and  torches, 
much  in  worldly  pomp  and  high  solemn  ceremonies  about  our 
funerals,  whereof  the  brittle  glory  standeth  us  here,  God  wot,  in 
very  little  stead,  but  hath  on  the  other  side  done  us  great  dis- 
pleasure. For  albeit  that  the  kind  solicitude  and  loving 
diligence  of  the  quick,  used  about  the  burying  of  the  dead,  is 
well  allowed  and  approved  afore  the  face  of  God ;  yet  much 
superfluous  charge  used  for  boast  and  ostentation,  namely, 
devised  by  the  dead  before  his  death,  is  of  God  greatly  mis- 
hked.  And  most  especially  the  kind  and  fashion  thereof,  wherein 
some  of  us  have  fallen,  and  many  besides  us  that  now  lie 
damned  in  hell.  For  some  hath  there  of  us,  while  we  were  in 
health,  not  so  much  studied  how  we  might  die  penitent  and  in 
good  Christian  plight,  as  how  we  might  be  solemnly  borne  out 
to  burying,  have  gay  and  goodly  funerals,  with  heralds  at  our 
hearses,  and  offering  up  our  helmets,  setting  up  our  escutcheon 
and  coat  armours  on  the  wall,  though  there  never  came  harness 
on  our  backs,  nor  never  ancestor  of  ours  ever  bare  arms  before. 
Then  devised  we  some  doctor  to  make  a  sermon  at  our  Mass  in 

*  English  Works,  p.  301. 

288  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

our  month's  mind,  and  there  preach  to  our  praise  with  some 
fond  fantasy  devised  of  our  name  ;  *  and  after  Mass,  much  feast- 
ing, riotous  and  costly  ;  and  finally,  like  madmen  made  we  men 
merry  at  our  death  and  take  our  burying  for  a  bride-ale.  For 
special  punishment  whereof,  some  of  us  have  been  by  our  evil 
angels  brought  forth  full  heavily,  in  full  great  despite,  to  behold 
our  own  burying,  and  to  stand  in  great  pain  invisible  among 
the  press,  and  made  to  look  on  our  carrion  corpse  carried  out 
with  great  pomp,  whereof  Our  Lord  knoweth  we  have  taken 
heavy  pleasure."! 

Much  more  of  this  treatise  should  I  like  to  quote,  but  I  must 
be  content  with  one  short  passage.  The  evil  angels  appointed 
to  punish  the  souls  "convey  us  (say  the  souls)  into  our  own 
houses,  and  there  double  is  our  pain,  with  spite  sometimes  of 
the  self-same  thing,  which  while  we  lived  was  half  our  heaven 
to  behold.  There  show  they  us  our  substance  and  our  bags 
stuffed  wnth  gold,  which,  when  we  now  see,  we  set  much  less  by 
them  than  would  an  old  man  that  found  a  bag  of  cherry  stones 
which  he  laid  up  when  he  was  a  child." 

Even  in  the  pathetic  description  given  by  the  souls  of  their 
forgetful  relatives  More's  humour  breaks  out :  "  Yet  we  hear 
sometimes  our  wives  pray  for  us  warmly ;  for  in  chiding  with 
her  second  husband,  to  spite  him  withal,  '  God  have  mercy/ 
saith  she,  '  on  my  first  husband's  soul,  for  he  was  a  wise  and 
honest  man,  far  unlike  you'.  And  then  marvel  we  much  when 
we  hear  them  say  so  well  by  us,  for  they  were  ever  wont  to  tell 
us  far  otherwise,  "it 

More  had  adopted  this  style  to  get  his  book  read.  He  knew 
the  temper  of  the  times,  and  probably  had  forecast  in  his  mind 
the  avarice  of  the   monarch,  which  glutted  itself  only  a  few 

*  Not  only  were  More's  contemporaries  fond  of  rebuses,  but  the 
Christian  or  surname  was  taken  as  a  text  of  a  funeral  oration,  and 
tortured  into  silly  moralities. 

t  English  Works,  p.  335. 

+  lb.,  p.  336. 


years  later  in  the  plunder  of  the  monasteries.  The  following 
passage  contains  his  warning  on  this  head  :  "  He  (Simon  Fish) 
reckoneth  all  the  clergy  idle  because  they  labour  not  with  their 
hands  till  their  faces  sweat.  But  Our  Saviour  Christ  reckoned 
far  otherwise  in  Blessed  Mary  Magdalen,  whose  idle  sitting  at 
her  ease  and  hearkening  he  accounted  and  declared  for  better 
business  than  the  busy  stirring  and  walking  about  of  His  good 
hostess  Martha,  which  was  yet  of  all  worldly  business  occupied 
about  the  best ;  for  she  was  busy  about  alms  and  hospitality, 
and  the  guesting  of  the  best  Poor  Man  and  most  gracious  Guest 
that  ever  was  guested  in  this  world.  Now,  if  this  cannot  yet 
content  this  good  man,  because  of  God's  commandment  given 
unto  Adam,  that  he  should  eat  his  bread  in  the  sweat  of  his 
face,  then  would  we  fain  wit  whether  himself  never  go  to  meat 
till  he  have  wrought  so  sore  with  his  hands  that  his  face 
sweateth.  Howbeit  he  thinketh  it  peradventure  enough  for 
him  that  he  sitteth  and  studieth  till  he  sweat  in  seeking  out  old 
heresies  and  devising  new.  And  verily,  if  he  look  that  such 
business  should  serve  him  for  a  discharge  of  hand-labour,  much 
better  may  we  think  discharged  thereof  many  good  men  whom 
he  would  have  beaten  thereto,  living  their  lives  in  fasting, 
prayer,  and  preaching,  and  studying  about  the  truth. 

"  But  it  is  good  to  look  betime  what  this  beggars'  proctor 
meaneth  by  this  commandment  of  hand-labour.  For  if  he 
confess  that  it  bindeth  not  every  man,  then  is  it  laid  to  no  pur- 
pose against  the  clergy,  for  there  was  small  clergy  when  that 
word  was  said  to  our  first  father,  Adam.  But  now,  if  ye  call  it 
a  precept  as  "he  doth,  and  then  will  that  it  extend  unto  all  the 
whole  kind  of  man,  then,  though  he  say  little  now,  he  meaneth 
to  go  further  hereafter.  For  if  he  might  first  have  the  clergy 
put  out  of  their  living,  and  all  that  they  had  clean  taken  from 
them  .  .  .  this  pageant  once  played  ...  he  would  after  make 
another  bill  to  the  people  against  merchants,  gentlemen,  kings, 
lords,  and  princes,  and  complain  that  they  have  all,  and  say 
that  they  do  nothing  for  it  but  live  idle,  and  that  they  be  com- 


2C)0  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

manded  in  Genesis  to  live  by  the  labour  of  their  hands  in  the 
sweat  of  their  faces,   as    he    sayeth  by  the  clergy  now.  .  .  . 
Whoso  will  advise  princes  or  lay  people  to  take  from  the  clergy 
their  possessions,  alledging  matters  at  large,  as  laying  to  their 
charge  that  they  live  not  as  they  should,  nor  use  not  well  their 
possessions,  and  that  therefore  it  were  well  done  to  take  them 
from    them    by    force  and  dispose  of  them    better.   .   .   .   We 
would  give  you  counsel  to  look  well  w^hat  will  follow.     For  he 
shall  not  fail  ...  to  find  reasons  enough  that  should  please 
the  people's  ears,  wherewith  he  would  labour  to  have  lords' 
lands  and  all  honest  men's  goods  to  be  pulled  from  them  by 
force,  and    distributed   among  beggars.  .   .   .  We  be  content 
that  ye  believe  us  not,  but  if  it  have  so  proved  already  by  those 
uplandish  Lutherans  that  rose  up  in  Almaine.  "* 

Simon  Fish  died  of  the  plague  about  a  year  after  the  publica- 
tion of  his  book,  and  More  tells  us  that,  before  his  illness  "God 
gave  him  such  grace,  that  he  repented  and  came  into  the 
Church  again,  and  forsook  and  forswore  all  the  whole  bill  of 
those  heresies  ".f 

III.  Confutation  of  Tindale's  Answer. 
Fish  had  written  that  all  the  abuses  came  because  "the  king's 
chief  judge  (the  chancellor)  was  always  a  spiritual  man  ".J  He 
lived  long  enough  to  witness  Wolsey's  fall  and  a  layman's  eleva- 
tion to  the  dignity.  The  cares  of  that  great  office,  far  from 
blunting  More's  zeal,  sharpened  it  by  bringing  clearly  and  fre- 
quently before  him  the  mischief  that  was  being  worked  by  the 
spread  of  heresy.  It  was  during  his  chancellorship  that  he 
made  time  to  write  the  most  voluminous  of  all  his  works,  his 
confutation  of  Tindale's  answer  to  his  Dialogue.  This  work  of 
More's,  including  his  answer  to  Friar  Barns,  is  divided  into  nine 
books,  and  would  make  three  good  octavo  volumes.  § 

*  English  Works,  p.  304.  t  lb.,  p.  881. 

X  Reprint  by  Early  English  Text  Society,  p.  13. 

§  It  was  brought  out  in  two  separate  parts.     The  printer  was  More's 
brother-in-law,  John  Rastell. 


William  Tindale's  name  is  so  prominent  among  the  first 
English  Protestants,  and  his  history  so  well  known,  that  it  is 
I'reedless  to  speak  of  it  here.  More's  controversy  with  him  is 
pretty  well  summed  up  in  the  following  passage,  which  is  of 
special  interest  because  Tindale  threatened  More  with  a  bad 
end  for  resisting  the  truth.  More  died  at  the  block;  Tindale 
outlived  him,  but  died  at  the  stake. 

''  It  liketh  Tindale  to  liken  me  to  Balaam,  Pharaoh,  and  to 
Judas  too.  Since  the  pith  of  all  his  process  standeth  in  this 
one  point,  that  his  heresies  be  the  true  faith,  and  that  the 
Catholic  faith  is  false;  that  the  holy  days  nor  the  fasting 
days  no  man  need  to  keep ;  that  the  Divine  services  in  the 
church  is  all  but  superstition  ;  that  the  church  and  the  ale- 
house is  all  one,  saving  for  such  holy  preaching  ;  that  men  have 
no  free  will  of  their  own  to  do  good  nor  ill ;  that  to  reverence 
Christ's  Cross  or  any  saint's  image  is  idolatry  ;  that  to  do  any 
good  work,  fast,  give  alms,  or  other,  with  intent  the  rather  to 
get  heaven  or  to  be  the  better  rewarded  there,  is  deadly  sin 
afore  God  and  worse  than  idolatry  ;  to  think  that  the  Mass  may 
do  men  any  good  more  than  the  priest  himself  were  a  false 
belief;  a  false  faith  also  to  pray  for  any  soul;  great  sin  to 
shrive  us  or  to  do  penance  for  sin  ;  friars  may  well  wed  nuns 
and  must  needs  have  wives  ;  and  the  sacraments  of  Christ  must 
serve  for  Tindale's  jesting  stock.  These  be  the  truths  thatTindale 
preacheth.  And  because  I  call  these  truths  heresies,  therefore, 
Tindale  calleth  me  Balaam,  Judas,  and  Pharaoh,  and  threateneth 
me  sore  with  the  vengeance  of  God  and  with  an  evil  death. 

"  What  death  each  man  shall  die,  that  hangeth  in  God's 
hands,  and  martyrs  have  died  for  God  and  heretics  have  died 
for  the  devil.  But  since  I  know  it  very  well,  and  so  doth 
Tindale  too,  that  the  holy  saints  dead  before  these  days,  since 
Christ's  time  till  our  own,  believed  as  I  do,  and  Tindale's  truths 
be  stark  devilish  heresies ;  if  God  give  me  the  grace  to  suffer 
for  saying  the  same,  I  shall  never  in  my  right  wit  wish  to  die 
better.     And,  therefore,  since  all  the  matter  standeth  in  this 

292  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

point  alone,  that  if  his  heresies  be  the  true  faith,  then  I  stand 
in  peril,  and  if  they  be  a  false  faith  I  may  be  safe  enough ;  let 
him  leave  his  sermon  hardily  for  the  while,  and  first  go  prove 
his  lies  true,  and  then  come  again  and  preach,  and  Friar 
Luther  also,  and  his  leman  with  him  too,  and  then  may  the 
geese  provide  the  fox  a  pulpit."  * 

IV.  Letter  against  Frith. 

Another  of  More's  antagonists  was  a  young  man  named  John 
Frith,  who,  after  being  educated  at  Henry  VI. 's  foundations  at 
Eton  and  Cambridge,  had  been  made  by  Cardinal  Wolsey  a 
junior  canon  of  Cardinal  College  (afterwards  Christ's  Church), 
Oxford.  Having  imbibed  the  new  heresies  and  got  into 
trouble,  he  went  abroad  in  1528  and  married.  When  More's 
book  against  Frith  appeared.  Frith  wrote  a  book  against  the 
doctrine  of  purgatory,  in  which  he  attempts  to  reply  not  only 
to  More,  but  to  what  the  Bishop  of  Rochester  (Fisher)  and 
John  Rastell,  More's  brother-in-law,  had  written  on  the  same 
subject.  He  returned  to  England  in  1532,  was  arrested  upon  a 
warrant  of  the  chancellor  (More),  and  committed  to  the 
Tower.  He  was  allowed  much  liberty,  and  wrote  a  short 
treatise  against  the  Catholic  doctrine  of  the  Holy  Eucharist,  of 
which  several  copies  were  made  by  his  friends,  three  of  which 
came  into  the  hands  of  Sir  Thomas,  to  which  he  made  an 
answer.  This  answer  is  in  the  form  of  a  letter  to  a  friend, 
who  had  sent  him  the  first  copy.  It  is  about  a  dozen  folio 
pages,  and  is  remarkable  amongst  all  his  polemical  writings  for 
its  reserve  and  the  almost  compassionate  tone  in  which  he 
treats  the  misguided  youth  who  has  dared  to  attack  the  most 
august  of  mysteries.  Frith  had  said  that  it  was  the  philosophical 
impossibility  of  accepting  the  literal  sense  of  Our  Lord's  words 
regarding  the  Eucharist  that  obliged  him  to  interpret  them  in 
a  figurative  sense.     More  meets  very  candidly  whatever  argu- 

*  End  of  second  book  against  Tindale.     English  Works,  p.  443. 


ments  he  had  advanced,  but  at  the  same  time  he  says  that  if  the 
faith  of  the  whole  Cathohc  Church  is  to  be  set  aside  in  this 
way,  "  I  were  able  myself  to  find  out  [i.e.,  to  invent]  fifteen 
new  sects  in  one  forenoon,  that  should  have  as  much  probable 
hold  of  Scripture  as  this  heresy  has  ".  * 

Frith  had  compared  the  Holy  Eucharist  to  a  ring  given  by  a 
husband  to  his  wife  for  a  remembrance,  when  going  to  a  far 
country.  More  allows  the  comparison,  but  adds  that  Frith 
himself  is  like  "  a  man  to  whom  a  bridegroom  had  delivered 
a  goodly  gold  ring  with  a  rich  ruby  therein,  to  deliver  over  to 
his  bride  for  a  token,  and  then  he  would  like  a  false  shrew, 
keep  away  that  gold  ring  and  give  the  bride  in  the  stead  thereof 
a  proper  ring  of  a  rush,t  and  tell  her  that  the  bridegroom 
would  send  her  no  better  ;  or  else  like  one  that  when  the  bride- 
groom had  given  such  a  gold  ring  to  his  bride  for  a  token, 
would  tell  her  plain  and  make  her  believe  that  the  ring  were 
but  copper  or  brass  to  minish  the  bridegroom's  thanks  ".J 

V.  "  The  Apology  ". 

After  More  had  resigned  the  chancellorship  he  wrote  a  book 
called  T/ie  Apology.  Certain  things  had  been  objected  against 
his  writings.  One  was  their  extreme  length.  He  replies  that 
"  every  way  seemeth  long  to  him  that  is  weary  ere  he  begin, 
but  I  find  some  men  again,  to  whom  the  reading  is  so  far  from 
tedious,  that  they  have  read  the  whole  book  over  thrice,  and 
some  that  make  tables  thereof  for  their  own  remembrance. 
But  the  objectors  will,  if  they  be  reasonable  men,  consider  in 
themselves  that  it  is  a  shorter  thing  and  sooner  done  to  write 
heresies  than  to  answer  them.     For  the  most  foolish  heretic  in 

•  English  Works,  p.  836. 

t  Pretended  or  mock  marriages  were  sometimes  made  with  rush- 
rings  (Brand). 

*  lb.,  p.  835.  More  did  not  immediately  publish  this  letter,  but  he  had  it 
printed  for  distribution,  to  those  who  had  read  Frith's  tract  [English 
Works,  p.  904).     \  year  later  he  gave  it  to  the  public. 

294  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

a  town  may  write  more  false  heresies  in  one  leaf  than  the 
wisest  man  in  the  whole  world  can  well  and  conveniently  by 
reason  and  authority  confute  in  forty.  *  But  greatly  can  I 
not  marvel,  though  these  evangelical  brethren  think  my  works 
too  long.  For  everything  think  they  too  long  that  aught  is. 
Our  Lady's  psalter  [the  rosary]  think  they  too  long  by  all  the 
Ave  Maries  and  some  good  piece  of  the  Creed  too.  Then  the 
Mass  think  they  too  long  by  the  secrets,  and  the  canon,  and  all 
the  collects  wherein  mention  is  made  either  of  saints  or  souls. 
Instead  of  a  long  porteous  [breviary],  a  short  primer  shall 
serve  them  ;  and  yet  the  primer  think  they  too  long  by  all 
Our  Lady's  matins.  And  the  seven  psalms  think  they  long 
enough  without  the  litany  ;  and  as  for  dirge  or  commemoration 
for  their  friends'  souls,  all  that  service  think  they  too  long  by 
altogether."  t 

Another  complaint  had  been  made  that  More  used  opprob- 
rious words,  and  the  example  was  quoted  against  him  of  an 
anonymous  Catholic  writer  called  the  Pacifier,  who  treated  his 
opponents  gently.  More  replies  :  "  I  cannot  say  nay,  but  that 
is  very  truth.  Howbeit  every  man  hath  not  the  like  wit,  nor 
like  inventions  in  writing.  For  he  findeth  many  proper  ways 
of  uttering  evil  matter  in  good  words,  which  I  never  thought 
upon,  but  am  a  simple  plain  body,  much  like  the  Macedonians, 
for  whom  Plutarch  writeth  that  King  Philip,  their  master,  made 
a  reasonable  excuse.  For  when  they  were  in  the  war,  some  of 
their  enemies  fled  from  their  own  king  and  came  into  King 
Philip's  service  against  iheir  own  country.  With  whom  when 
the  Macedonians  fell  sometimes  at  words,  as  it  often  happeneth 
among  soldiers,  the  Macedonians  in  spite  would  call  them 
traitors.  Whereupon  they  complained  to  King  Philip,  and 
made  the  matter  sore  and  grievous,  that  whereas  they  had  not 
only  left  their  own  native  country  but  did  also  fight  against  it 
and  help  to  destroy  it  for  the  love  and  service  they  had  towards 

*  English  Works,  p.  847.  f  lb.,  p.  848. 


him,  his  own  people  letted  not,  in  anger  and  despite,  to  call 
them  false  traitors.  Whereupon  King  Philip  answered  them  : 
'  Good  fellows,  I  pray  you  be  not  angry  with  my  people,  but 
have  patience.  I  am  sorry  that  their  manner  is  no  better. 
But  I  wis  ye  know^  them  well  enough ;  their  nature  is  so  plain, 
and  their  utterance  so  rude,  that  they  cannot  call  a  horse  but  a 
horse.'  And  in  good  faith,  like  those  good  folk  am  I.  For 
though  Tindale  and  Frith  in  their  w^-itings  call  me  a  poet,  it  is 
but  of  their  own  courtesy,  undeserved  on  my  part.  For  I  can 
neither  so  much  poetry,  nor  so  much  rhetoric  neither,  as  to 
find  good  names  for  evil  things,  but  even  as  the  Macedonians 
could  not  call  a  traitor  but  a  traitor,  so  can  I  not  call  a  fool 
but  a  fool,  nor  a  heretic  but  a  heretic."  * 

But  he  then  compares  seriously  his  ow^n  freedom  of  speech 
with  the  abuse  these  man  poured  out  on  the  whole  Catholic 
Church.  "  For  they  say  that  this  eight  hundred  years  all  the 
corps  of  Christendom  hath  been  led  out  of  the  right  way  from 
God,  and  have  lived  all  in  idolatry  and  died  in  the  service  of 
the  devil,  because  they  have  done  honour  to  Christ's  Cross, 
and  prayed  unto  saints,  and  reverenced  their  relics,  and 
honoured  their  images,  and  been  baptised  in  Latin,  and  taken 
matrimony  for  a  sacrament,  and  used  confession  and  done 
penance  for  sins,  and  prayed  for  all  Christian  souls,  and  been 
anealed  in  their  deathbed,  and  have  taken  their  housel  after  the 
rite  and  usage  of  the  Church,  and  have  set  more  by  the  Mass 
than  they  should  do,  and  believed  that  it  was  a  sacrifice,  a 
host,  and  an  oblation,  and  that  it  should  do  them  good ;  and 
have  believed  that  there  was  neither  bread  nor  wine  in  the 
Blessed  Sacrament  of  the  altar,  but  instead  of  bread  and  wine 
the  very  Body  and  Blood  of  Christ. 

"And  these  things,  say  Tindale  and  Barns  both,  be  very 
false  belief  and  great  damnable  sin  in  the  doing,  and  so  damn 
they  to  the  devil  the  whole  Catholic  Church,  both  temporal  and 

*  English  Works,  p.  S64.     {Apology,  ch.  ix.) 

296  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

spiritual,  and  (except  heretics)  leave  not  one  man  for  God's 
part  this  eight  hundred  years  past,  by  their  own  limitation;  and 
of  truth,  if  these  false  heresies  were  true,  not  in  the  other  seven 
hundred  before  that  neither. 

"  Now,  when  that  against  all  the  whole  Catholic  Church,  both 
that  now  is  and  that  ever  before  hath  been  from  the  Apostle's 
days  hitherto,  both  temporal  and  spiritual,  laymen  and  religious, 
and  against  all  that  good  is,  saints,  ceremonies,  service  of  God, 
the  very  sacraments  and  all,  and  most  against  the  best,  that  is 
to  wit,  the  precious  Body  and  Blood  of  Our  Saviour  Himself 
in  the  holy  sacrament  of  the  altar,  these  blasphemous  heretics 
in  their  ungracious  books,  so  villainously  jest  and  rail ;  were 
not  a  man,  ween  you,  very  far  overseen,  and  worthy  to  be 
counted  discourteous,  that  would,  in  writing  against  their 
heresies,  presume  without  great  reverence  to  rehearse  their 
worshipful  names  ? 

"  If  any  of  them  use  their  words  at  their  pleasure,  as  evil 
and  as  villainous  as  they  list,  against  myself,  I  am  content  to 
forbear  any  requiting  thereof,  and  give  them  no  worse  words 
again,  than  if  they  speak  me  fair.  For  all  shall  be  one  to  me, 
or  rather  the  worse  the  better.  For  the  pleasant  oil  of  heretics 
cast  upon  mine  head  can  do  my  mind  no  pleasure,  but  contrari- 
wise, the  worse  that  such  folk  write  of  me,  for  hatred  that  they 
bear  to  the  Catholic  Church  and  faith,  the  greater  pleasure,  as 
for  my  own  part,  they  do  me.  But  surely  their  railing  against 
all  other  I  purpose  not  to  bear  so  patiently,  as  to  forbear  to 
let  them  hear  some  part  of  like  language  as  they  speak.  How- 
beit  utterly  to  match  them  therein,  I  neither  can  though  I 
would,  nor  will  neither  though  I  could  ;  but  am  content,  as  I 
needs  must,  to  give  them  therein  the  mastery,  wherein  to  match 
them  were  more  rebuke  than  honesty."  * 

More  had  also  been  accused  that  he  treated  Tindale,  Barns, 
and  Frith,  as  if  they  were  wanting  in  talent  and  learning. 
To  this,  he  replies  that  he  had  never  called  in  question  their 

*  English  Works,  p.  865. 


ability,  but  asserted  that  it  appeared  to  small  advantage  in 
their  works,  which  was  probably  owing  to  the  badness  of  their 
cause.  If  they  were  really  as  learned  and  clever  as  their 
followers  boasted,  it  must  be  admitted  that  God  had  shown 
His  indignation  in  causing  them  to  write  so  foolishly  ;  and  in 
this,  he  adds,  they  have  been  treated  with  more  severity  than 
the  fallen  angels,  who  in  their  fall  retain  their  natural  gifts. 
This  gives  occasion  to  a  bit  of  delicate  banter  about  devils, 
ladies,  and  heretics,  which  is  so  characteristic  of  More's  genius, 
that  I  must  transcribe  it : — 

"  Father  Alphonse,*  the  Spanish  friar,  told  me  that  the  devils 
be  no  such  deformed,  evil-favoured  creatures  as  men  imagine 
them,  but  they  be  in  mind  proud,  envious,  and  cruel.  And 
he  bade  me,  that  if  I  would  see  a  very  right  image  of  a  fiend, 
I  should  no  more  but  even  look  upon  a  very  fair  woman  that 
hath  a  very  shrewd,t  fell,  cursed  mind.  And  when  I  showed 
him  that  I  never  saw  none  such,  nor  wist  not  where  I  might 
any  such  find,  he  said  he  could  find  four  or  five ;  but  I  cannot 
believe  him.  Nor  verily  no  more  can  I  believe  that  the  fiends 
be  like  fair  shrewd  women,  if  there  were  any  such.  Nor,  as 
the  world  is,  it  were  not  good  that  young  men  should  ween  so, 
for  they  be  so  full  of  courage,  that  were  the  fiends  never  so 
cursed,  if  they  thought  them  like  fair  women,  they  would  never 
fear  to  adventure  upon  them  once.  Nor,  to  say  the  truth, 
no  more  can  I  believe  neither  that  the  damned  spirits  have 
all  their  natural  gifts  as  whole  and  as  perfect  as  they  had  before 
their  fall,  liut  surely  if  they  have,  then  God  hath  on  Tindale, 
Barns,  and  Frith,  and  those  other  heretics,  more  showed  His 
vengeance  in  some  part  than  He  did  upon  the  devil.  For  in 
good  faith  God  hath,  as  it  seemeth,  from  these  folk  taken  away 
the  best  part  of  their  wits."| 

*  Perhaps  Alphonso  de  Castro,  the  emperor's  confessor  and  a  learned 
writer — but  more  probably  another  Father  Alphons6s,  also  a  minorite, 
who  was  confessor  to  Queen  Katharine. 

t  Shrewd — i.e.,  shrewish,  malicious. 

*  English  Works,  p.  863. 

298  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

The  Apology  was  written  by  More,  not  so  much  to  defend 
his  own  polemical  style  as  to  answer  accusations  that  had  been 
made  against  the  clergy  as  regards  their  treatment  of  heretics. 
This  had  been  done  especially  by  the  writer,  who  is  called  by 
More  the  Pacifier,  because  his  professed  object  was  to  allay  the 
quarrel  that  was  springing  up  between  the  clergy  and  the  laity. 
But  his  mode  of  pacifying  was,  according  to  Sir  Thomas,  like 
that  of  a  man  who  should  step  in  between  two  combatants, 
and  putting  one  of  them  gently  back  with  his  hand,  should 
commence  to  buffet  the  other  about  the  face;  "some  men 
would  say  (I  suppose),  that  he  had  as  lieve  his  enemy  were 
let  alone  with  him,  and  thereof  abide  the  adventure,  as 
have  such  a  friend  step  in  to  part  them  ".*  Though  the 
Pacifier  must  have  been  a  clergyman,  yet  it  is  the  clergy  who 
receive  all  the  buffets  at  his  hand,  and  that  too  without 
distinct  charges,  but  with  repetition  of  every  kind  of  malicious 
gossip,  brought  in  with  a  "Some  say"  or  "They  say".  Of 
the  principal  of  these  accusations  I  have  given  some  account 
in  the  preceding  chapter. 

VI.  "  Debellation  of  Salem  and  Bizance  ". 

More's  Apology  came  out  in  the  spring  of  1533.  He  heard 
that  several  opponents  were  busily  engaged  in  elaborating 
answers,  to  which  he  thus  laughingly  refers :  "  Like  as  a 
husband,  whose  wife  were  in  her  travail,  hearkeneth  and  would 
fain  hear  good  tidings,  so,  since  I  so  much  heard  of  so  sore 
travail  of  so  many,  I  longed  of  their  long  labour  to  see  some 
good  speed,  and  some  of  those  fair  babes  born.  And  when 
these  great  hills  had  thus  travailed  long,  from  the  week  after 
Easter  till  as  much  afore  Michaelmas,  the  good  hour  came  on 
as  God  would  that  one  was  brought  a-bed  with  sore  labour  at 
last  delivered  of  a  dead  mouse.  The  mother  is  yet  but  green, 
good  soul,  and  hath  need  of  good  keeping ;  women  wot  what 
caudle  serveth  against  her  after-throes."t     It  must  be  pardoned 

*  Apology,  ch.  xiii.,  English  Works,  p.  872.  t  lb.,  p.  930. 


More's  adversaries  if  they  made  a  sorry  pun  upon  his  name, 
and  called  him  "  Master  Mock,"*  for  certainly  all  men  cannot 
relish  jests  at  their  own  expense  as  More  is  said  to  have  done. 
The  "  dead  mouse  "  to  which  he  here  alludes  was  written  by 
the  Pacifier,  or  Sir  John  Somesay,  as  More  calls  him,  and 
whom  he  had  handled  rather  sharply  in  his  Apology.  His  book 
was  in  the  form  of  a  dialogue,  and  called  Salem  and  Bizaftce. 
In  less  than  a  month  More's  answer  was  printed,  called  The 
Debellacion  of  Salem  afid  Bizance.  I  need  here  say  no  more 
than  that  it  should  be  consulted  by  those  who  would  wish  to 
see  the  treatise  of  a  clever  man,  and  learned  lawyer,  on  the 
ancient  ecclesiastical  and  civil  processes  against  heresy. 

VII.  Answer  to  "Supper  of  the  Lord". 
Nor  will  I  delay  upon  the  last  of  the  series  of  More's  contro- 
versial works,  his  answer  to  a  book  called  The  Supper  of  the 
Lord.  After  the  death  of  Frith,  a  book  of  his  on  the 
Eucharist,  written  in  answer  to  More's  letter  on  the  same  sub- 
ject, was  being  printed  on  the  Continent,  and  was  daily  expected 
in  England  in  August,  i533,t  when  another  book  appeared, 
without  author's  name,  but  written,  as  More  thought,  either  by 
William  Tindale  or  George  Jay.:|:  ^Nlore  intended  his  answer 
to  consist  of  two  parts,  but  the  troubles  that  fell  on  him  early 
in  1534  prevented  his  composing  the  second  part.  The  first 
is  in  five  books,  and  is  mainly  a  scriptural  exposition  of  the 
sixth  chapter  of  St.  John's  Gospel.  On  no  subject  could  he 
write  more  gladly  and  feelingly  than  on  that  mystery  which  had 
been  so  dear  to  him  from  his  boyhood. 

Section  III.  Some  Remarks. 
I .  Among  the  various  points  of  Christian  faith  controverted  in 

*  English  Works,  p.  1037. 
+  lb.,  p.  1046. 

*  The  author  is  called  by  More  "  The  Masker  ".     He  is  now  known  to 
have  been  Tindale. 

300  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

the  sixteenth  century,  there  is  one  of  which  there  is  httle 
mention  in  Sir  Thomas  More's  English  works,  one  which  he 
may  be  said  to  have  studiously  avoided- — that  of  the  supremacy 
of  the  Roman  Pontiff;  and  yet  for  this,  and  not  for  any  of 
those  articles  on  which  he  had  written  so  copiously,  was  he 
destined  to  die.  We  have  seen  how  clearly  he  stated  his  belief 
in  his  book  against  Luther  in  1523.  His  belief  had  not  varied 
in  the  six  or  seven  years  devoted  to  the  defence  of  the  Church 
in  the  English  tongue ;  but  there  were  good  reasons  for 
avoiding  this  topic. 

It  must  be  remembered  that,  during  the  whole  of  this 
period,  Henry  VHI.  was  the  main  obstacle  to  the  spread  of  the 
Eutheran  heresy  in  England.  With  the  exception  (perhaps)  of 
conniving  at  Fish's  ]3amphlet — the  Supplication  of  Beggars — 
Henry  was  more  zealous  even  than  the  bishops  in  suppressing 
heretical  books.  It  was  therefore  of  great  importance  to  More 
in  no  w^ay  to  irritate  or  alienate  him.  Now,  although  the  king 
had  not  committed  any  overt  act  of  formal  schism  while  More 
was  writing,  he  was  engaged  on  his  divorce,  which  brought  him 
into  collision  with  the  Sovereign  Pontiff.  It  was  simple 
prudence  in  More  to  keep  aloof  the  question  of  the  nature  and 
extent  of  the  Pope's  authority,  until  the  passions  of  the  king 
were  again  calmed,  and  would  allow  him  to  take  up  his  old 
position  as  the  foremost  champion  of  the  Pope  in  Europe, 

It  has  been  said  by  some  that  Sir  Thomas  More  did  not 
consider  the  supremacy  of  the  Pope  as  being  essential  to  the 
Catholic  Church.  The  only  ground  for  this  assertion  is  his 
ow^n  remark  that  he  made  no  mention  of  the  Pope  in  his  de- 
finition of  the  Church.  Tindale,  professing  to  answer  More's 
Dialogue^  placed  the  following  words  as  the  title  of  one  of  his 
chapters  :  "  Whether  the  Pope  and  his  sect  be  Christ's  Church 
or  no".  In  his  reply  to  Tindale,  More  writes  as  follows  :  "  I 
have,  in  places  enough,  well  and  plainly  declared,  that  I  call 
the  Church  of  Christ  '  the  Catholic  known  Church  of  all 
Christian  nations,  neither  gone  out  nor  cut  off'.     And  albeit 


all  these  nations  now  do  and  long  have  recognised  and  acknow- 
ledged the  Pope,  not  as  the  Bishop  of  Rome  but  as  the  suc- 
cessor of  St.  Peter,  to  be  their  chief  spiritual  governor  under 
God,  and  Christ's  vicar  on  earth  ;  yet  did  I  never  put  the  Pope 
for  part  of  the  definition  of  the  Church,  defining  the  Church  to 
be  '  the  common  known  congregation  of  all  Christian  nations 
under  one  head,  the  Pope '.  Thus  did  I  never  define  the 
Church,  but  purposely  declined  therefrom,  because  I  would  not 
intricate  and  entangle  the  matter  with  two  questions  at  once 
.  .  .  since  if  he  be  the  necessary  head  he  is  included  in  the 
name  of  the  whole  body,  and  whether  he  be  or  not,  if  it  be 
brought  in  question,  were  a  matter  to  be  treated  and  disputed 

It  is  a  strange  thing  that,  because  a  writer  refuses  to  assume 
a  point  in  carrying  on  a  controversy,  or  to  complicate  a  con- 
troversy by  introducing  a  matter  that  will  entail  dispute,  and  is 
therefore  content  with  a  serviceable  definition  abstracting  from 
the  point  in  question,  he  should  be  represented  as  admitting 
that  the  point  is  unessential. 

The  words  Papist  and  Popish  had  been  very  early  imported 
into  the  Lutheran  controversy,  and  were  used  where  there  was 
not  the  most  distant  reference  to  the  Pope.  More  calls  this  a 
mere  spiteful  nickname,  since  the  matters  denied  by  the  heretics 
were  held  unanimously  by  the  ancient  doctors  whom  they  had 
not  yet  learnt  to  call  Papists.  If,  however,  they  are  willing  to 
include  those  holy  doctors  under  the  name  of  Papist,  which 
they  count  odious,  no  wise  man  will  be  ashamed  of  it.f  When 
the  Masker  taunted  More  with  his  zeal  "  to  stablish  the  Pope's 
kingdom,"  More  replied  :  "What  great  cause  should  move  me 
to  bear  that  great  affection  to  the  Pope  as  to  feign  all  these 
things  for  stabHshment  of  his  kingdom  ?  He  thinketh  that 
every  man  knoweth'already  that  the  Pope  is  my  godfather,  and 
goeth  about  to   make   me   a  cardinal.":}:     Such   answers   were 

*  Eiiglisli  Works,  p.  615.  t  lb.,  p.  noi.  X  I^-,  P-  1120. 



sufficient  for  such  writers  and  for  the  occasion.  What  senti- 
ments More  entertained  on  the  Divine  government  of  the 
Church  will  be  seen  in  a  future  chapter. 

2.  It  would  be  a  curious  and  interesting  study  to  gather  from 
the  various  writings  of  Sir  Thomas  More,  Latin  and  English,  what 
he  considered  to  be  the  principal  causes  of  the  rapid  spread  of 
heresy  in  his  day,  in  England  and  elsewhere.  Such  a  study, 
however,  would  belong  rather  to  the  history  of  his  times  than 
to  that  of  his  life.  Two  passages  I  am  about  to  quote  bear 
on  this  subject,  but  I  choose  them  rather  to  illustrate  his  amus- 
ing style  and  his  insight  into  character  : — 

''  A  certain  priest,  as  it  was  said,  after  that  he  fell  from  the 
study  of  the  law,  wherein  he  was  a  proctor  and  partly  well 
learned,  unto  the  study  of  Scripture,  he  was  very  fearful  and 
scrupulous,  and  began  at  the  first  to  fall  into  such  a  scrupulous 
holiness,  that  he  reckoned  himself  bound  so  straitly  to  keep 
and  observe  the  words  of  Christ  after  the  very  letter,  that  be- 
cause our  Lord  biddeth  us  when  we  will  pray  enter  into 
our  chamber  and  shut  the  door  to  us,  he  thought  it  there- 
fore sin  to  say  his  service  abroad,  and  always  would  be  sure 
to  have  his  chamber  door  shut  unto  him  when  he  said  his 
matins.  Howbeit,  I  tell  you  not  this  thing  for  any  great  hurt 
in  the  man,  for  it  was  more  peevish  and  painful  than  evil  and 
sinful.  But  surely  men  say  that,  in  conclusion,  with  the  weari- , 
ness  of  that  superstitious  fear  and  servile  dread,  he  fell  as  far  to 
the  contrary ;  and  under  pretext  of  love  and  liberty  waxed  so 
drunk  of  the  '  new  must '  of  lewd  lightness  of  mind  and 
vain  gladness  of  heart,  w^hich  he  took  for  spiritual  consolation, 
that  whatsoever  himself  listed  to  take  for  good,  that  thought  he 
forthwith  approved  by  God.  And  so  framed  himself  a  faith, 
framed  himself  a  conscience,  framed  himself  a  devotion,  wherein 
him  list,  and  wherein  him  liked  he  set  himself  at  liberty.* 

*  Of  scrupulosity  leading  to  license  More  had  a  domestic  example  in 
Roper.  Luther's  revolt  and  whole  system  of  theology  may  be  traced  to 
the  same  cause.     Latimer's  history  is  another  illustration. 


"  *  And  if  it  so  were,'  quoth  your  friend,  'then  ye  see^  lo!  what 
Cometh  of  this  saying  of  service.' 

"'Of  saying  service!'  quoth  I;  'that  is  much  hke  as  at 
Beverley  late,  when  much  of  the  people  being  at  a  bear-baiting, 
the  church  fell  suddenly  down  at  evensong  time,  and  over- 
whelmed some  that  then  were  in  it ;  a  good  fellow,  that  after 
heard  the  tale  told,  "Lo!"  quoth  he,  "now  may  you  see  what 
it  is  to  be  at  evensong,  when  ye  should  be  at  the  bear  baiting  ". 
Howbeit,  the  hurt  was  not  there  in  being  at  evensong,  but  in 
that  the  church  was  falsely  wrought.  So  was  in  him  or  any 
man  else  none  harm  but  good  in  saying  of  Divine  service,  but 
the  occasion  of  harm  is  in  the  superstitious  fashion  that  their 
own  folly  joineth  thereunto,  as  some  think  they  say  it  not,  but 
if  they  say  every  psalm  twice.' 

'"In  faith,'  quoth  your  friend,  'then  if  I  were  as  he,  I  would 
mumble  it  up  apace,  or  else  say  none  at  all.' 

"'That  were  as  evil,'  quoth  I,  'on  the  other  side.  There  is  a 
mean  may  serve  between  both.' 

"  'Yea,'  quoth  he,  'but  wot  ye  what  the  wife  said  that  com- 
plained to  her  gossip  of  her  husband's  frowardness.  She  said 
her  husband  was  so  wayward  that  he  would  never  be  pleased. 
For  if  his  bread,  quoth  she,  be  dough-baked,  then  is  he  angry. 
Marry,  no  marvel,  quoth  her  gossip.  Marry,  and  wot  ye 
what,  gossip?  quoth  she,  and  if  I  bake  it  all  to  hard  coals, 
yet  is  he  not  content  neither,  by  Saint  James.  No,  quoth 
her  gossip,  ye  should  bake  it  in  a  mean.  In  a  mean!  quoth 
she,  marry,  I  cannot  happen  on  it.  And  so  in  a  pair  of 
matins,*  it  is  much  work  to  happen  on  the  mean.  And  then 
to  say  them  too  short  is  lack  of  devotion,  and  to  say  them  too 

*  A  popular  use  of  the  word  pair.  They  said  a  pair  of  beads,  of  stairs, 
of  cards,  where  we  say  a  string,  a  flight,  a  pack.  A|pair  of  matins,  either 
because  matins  comprises  many  psalms  and  prayers,  or  because  in  addi- 
tion to  matins  of  the  day,  matins  of  Our  Lady  or  of  the  dead  were  often 

304  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

seriously  is  somewhat  superstitious ;  and  therefore  the  best  way 
were,  to  my  mind,  to  say  none  at  alh' 

'' '  Yea,'  quoth  I,  '  but  then  is  God  as  wayward  a  husband,  as 
ye  spake  of,  that  will  neither  be  content  with  His  bread  burned 
to  coals,  nor  dough-baken  neither  ? ' 

"  'By  Our  Lady,'  quoth  he,  'but  be  He  contented  or  not,  I 
ween  He  hath  much  dough-baken  bread  among.  For  the 
matins,  I  tell  you,  be  in  some  places  sungen  faster  than  I  can 
say  them.' 

"'Peradventure,'  quoth  I;  'so  were  it  need,  for  if  they  should 
sing  matins  no  faster  than  ye  say  them,  they  should  I  ween 
sing  very  few  matins  in  a  year.' 

"  'In  faith,'  quoth  he,  'and  some  that  say  them  make  me  to 
doubt  uiuch,  whether  the  bees  in  their  hives  use  to  say  matins 
among  them ;  for  even  such  a  buzzing  they  make.' 

"  '  Surely,'  quoth  I,   '  that  is  as  true  as  it  is  evil  done.' "  * 

From  the  above  it  will  be  seen  that  Sir  Thomas  was  not  in- 
clined to  hide  the  abuses  or  deficiencies  on  the  Catholic  side. 
Let  us  hear  now  what  he  thought  of  the  Protestant  preaching 
of  his  day.  He  had  been  saying  that  the  new  teachers  in 
Saxony  denounced  all  bodily  affliction  as  mere  superstition. 
Even  "  heaviness  of  heart  and  weeping  for  our  sins,  this  they 
reckon  shame  almost  and  womanish  peevishness.  Howbeit 
(thanked  be  God)  their  women  wax  there  now  so  mannish,  that 
they  be  not  so  peevish,  nor  so  poor  in  spirit,  but  that  they  can 
sin  on  as  men  do,  and  be  neither  afraid,  nor  ashamed,  nor 
weep  for  their  sins  at  all.  And  surely  I  have  marvelled  much 
the  less  ever  since  that  I  heard  the  manner  of  their  preachers 
there.  For  as  you  remember,  when  I  was  in  Saxony, t  these 
matters  were  in  a  manner  but  in  a  mammering,  nor  Luther  was 
not  then   wed  yet,   nor  religious  men  out  of  their  habit,  but 

*  English  Works,  p.  208. 

t  More  never  was  in  Saxony.  He  is  putting  these  words  in  the  mouth 
of  a  supposed  Hungarian.  The  sermon  described  by  More  must  have 
been  heard  by  himself  in  England. 


suffered  were  those  that  would  be  of  the  sect  freely  to  preach 
what  they  would  unto  the  people. 

"  And  forsooth  I  heard  a  rehgious  man  myself,  one  that  had 
been  reputed  and  taken  for  very  good,  and  which,  as  far  as  the 
folk  perceived,  was  of  his  own  living  somewhat  austere  and 
sharp.  But  his  preaching  was  wonderful — methink  I  hear 
him  yet — his  voice  was  so  loud  and  shrill,  his  learning  less  than 
mean.  But  whereas  his  matter  was  much  part  against  fasting, 
and  all  affliction  for  any  penance,  which  he  called  men's  inven- 
tions, he  cried  ever  out  upon  them  to  keep  well  the  laws  of 
Christ,  let  go  their  peevish  penance,  and  purpose  then  to  mend, 
and  seek  nothing  to  salvation  but  the  death  of  Christ.  '  For 
He  is  our  justice,  and  He  is  our  Saviour,  and  our  whole  satis- 
faction for  all  our  deadly  sins.  He  did  full  penance  for  us  all 
upon  His  painful  Cross,  He  washed  us  there  all  clean  with  the 
water  of  His  sweet  side,  and  brought  us  out  of  the  devil's 
danger  with  His  dear  precious  blood.  Leave,  therefore,  leave^ 
I  beseech  you,  these  inventions  of  men,  your  foolish  Lenten 
fasts,  and  your  peevish  penance,  minish  never  Christ's  thank, 
nor  look  to  save  yourself.  It  is  Christ's  death,  I  tell  you,  that 
must  save  us  all  ;  Christ's  death  I  tell  you  yet  again,  and  not 
your  own  deeds.  Leave  your  own  fasting,  and  lean  to  Christ 
alone,  good  Christian  people,  for  Christ's  dear  bitter  Passion.' 

•'Now,  so  loud  and  so  shrill  he  cried  Christ  in  their  ears, 
and  so  thick  he  came  forth  with  Christ's  bitter  Passion,  and 
that  so  bitterly  spoken,  with  the  sweat  dropping  down  his 
cheeks,  that  I  marvelled  not  though  I  saw  the  poor  women 
weep,  for  he  made  my  own  hair  stand  upon  my  head.  And 
with  such  preaching  were  the  people  so  brought  in,  that  some 
fell  to  break  their  fasts  on  the  fasting  days,  not  of  frailty  or  of 
malice  first,  but  almost  of  devotion,  lest  they  should  take  from 
Christ  the  thank  of  His  bitter  Passion.  But  when  they  were 
awhile  nuzzelled  in  that  point  first,  they  could  abide  and  endure 
after  many  things  more,  with  which  had  he  then  begun  they 
would  have  pulled  him  down.     God  amend  that  man,  whatso- 


3o6  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

ever  he  be,  and  God  keep  all  good  folk  from  such  manner  of 
preachers  !  Such  one  preacher  much  more  abuseth  the  name 
of  Christ  and  of  His  bitter  Passion,  than  five  hundred  hazarders 
that  in  their  idle  business  swear  and  forswear  themselves  by 
His  holy  bitter  Passion  at  dice.  They  carry  the  minds  of  the 
people  from  the  perceiving  of  their  craft,  by  the  continual 
naming  of  the  name  of  Christ ;  and  crying  His  Passion  so 
shrill  into  their  ears,  they  forget  that  the  Church  hath  ever 
taught  them  that  all  our  penance  without  Christ's  Passion  were 
not  worth  a  pease."  * 

3.  After  the  varied  examples  given  in  this  chapter  and  else- 
where, no  minute  criticism  can  be  necessary  as  to  Sir  Thomas 
More's  literary  style.  But  as  I  could  only  illustrate  his  work 
by  detached  fragments,  I  will  conclude  with  one  or  two  general 
remarks.  Not  one  of  his  treatises  is  cast  in  a  scientific  form. 
They  were  intended,  not  as  Burnet  says,  for  "  the  rabble,"  but 
for  the  gentry  of  England.  They  are  never  merely  didactic. 
The  dialogue  was  More's  favourite  form,  a  preference  he  had 
probably  derived  from  his  study  of  Plato.  In  his  first  English 
controversial  work,  the  Quoth  He  and  Quoth  /,  as  well  as  in 
his  last  devotional  treatise,  his  Coinfort  against  Tribulation^  the 
speakers  are  fictitious  and  the  style  is  very  lively.  In  the  other 
works  the  authors  whom  he  is  controverting  are  his  partners 
in  the  dialogue ;  for  he  does  not  merely  refer  to  their  arguments 
or  give  their  substance,  he  quotes  them  in  full.  It  is  greatly 
owing  to  this  that  his  treatises  run  to  so  great  a  length.  But 
no  one  could  complain  that  he  was  misrepresented,  or  even 
that  his  book  was  suppressed,  since  it  appeared  again  in  More's 
pages,  though  accompanied  by  its  antidote. 

4.  Another  matter  that  could  scarcely  be  gathered  from  the 
fragments  I  have  quoted  is  More's  deep  learning  in  Holy 
Scripture.  We  have  seen  in  his  letter  to  Dorpius,  written,  be 
it  remembered,  some  years  before  Luther's  first  appearance  as 

*  English  Works,  p.  1175. 


a  reformer,  how  eagerly  More  upheld  the  study  of  Holy 
Scripture  as  the  most  fruitful  occupation  of  a  theologian.  It 
had  been  his  favourite  study  from  his  boyhood,  and  he  was 
engaged  on  a  commentary  on  the  Gospel  when  his  writing 
materials  were  taken  from  him  in  the  Tower.  On  the  other  hand, 
nothing  pained  him  more  than  to  see  souls  deluded  by  fair  but 
false  pretences  ;  to  see  their  reverence  for  Our  Lord  and  His 
sacred  Passion,  and  their  belief  in  the  inspiration  of  Holy 
Scripture — a  reverence  and  a  belief  derived  solely  from  the 
Holy  Church — used  as  weapons  against  herself,  by  her  own 
revolted  and  ungrateful  priests.  This  consideration  is  very  im- 
portant in  judging  of  Sir  Thomas  More's  character  and  action, 
since  he  has  been  often  represented  as  an  enemy  of  the  Bible 
or  of  its  diffusion,  because  he  concurred  in  the  suppression  of 
Tindale's  erroneous  translation.  His  genuine  sentiments  may 
be  seen  from  the  following  passages  : — 

"Holy  Scripture  is  the  highest  and  best  learning  that  any 
man  can  have,  if  one  take  the  right  way  in  the  learning.  It  is, 
as  a  good  holy  saint  saith,  so  marvellously  tempered,  that  a 
mouse  may  wade  therein,  and  an  elephant  be  drowned  therein. 
For  there  is  no  man  so  low,  but  if  he  will  seek  his  way  with  the 
staff  of  his  faith  in  his  hand,  and  hold  that  fast  and  search  the 
way  therewith,  and  have  the  old  holy  fathers  also  for  his  guides, 
going  on  with  a  good  purpose  and  a  lowly  heart,  using  reason 
and  refusing  no  good  learning,  with  calling  of  God  for  wisdom, 
grace,  and  help,  that  he  may  well  keep  his  way  and  follow  his 
good  guides,  then  shall  he  never  fall  in  peril,  but  well  and 
surely  wade  through,  and  come  to  such  end  of  his  journey  as 
himself  would  well  wish.  But  surely  if  he  be  as  long  as 
Longinus,  and  have  a  high  heart,  and  trust  upon  his  own  wit, 
look  he  never  so  lowly  that  setteth  all  the  old  holy  fathers  at 
nought,  that  fellow  shall  not  fail  to  sink  over  the  ears  and 
drown.  And  of  all  wretches  worst  shall  he  walk,  that  forcing 
little  *  of  the  faith  of  Christ's  Church,  cometh  to  the  Scripture 

*  Making  but  slight  account  of. 

3o8  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

of  God  to  look  and  try  therein  whether  the  Church  beheve 
right  or  not.  For  either  doubteth  he  whether  Christ  teach  His 
Church  true  or  else  whether  Christ  teacheth  it  at  all  or  not. 
And  then  he  doubteth  whether  Christ  in  His  words  did  say 
true,  when  He  said  He  would  be  with  His  Church  to  the  end 
of  the  world."* 

Elsewhere  he  writes  of  the  misuse  of  Scripture  by  the 
preachers  of  his  day  : — 

"  I  have  known  right  good  wits  that  have  set  all  other  learn- 
ing aside,  save  the  study  of  Scripture,  partly  for  sloth,  partly  for 
pride,  which  affections  their  inward  secret  favour  to  them- 
selves cloaked  under  the  pretext  of  simplicity  and  good 
Christian  devotion.  But  in  a  little  while  after,  the  damnable 
spirit  of  pride,  that  unaware  to  themselves  lurked  in  their 
hearts,  hath  begun  to  put  out  his  horns  and  show  himself. 
For  then  have  they  longed,  under  the  praise  of  Holy  Scripture, 
to  set  out  to  show  their  own  study.  Which,  because  they 
would  have  seem  the  more  to  be  set  by,  they  have  first  fallen 
to  the  dispraise  and  derision  of  all  other  disciplines.  And 
because,  in  speaking  or  preaching  of  such  common  things  as  all 
Christian  men  knew,  they  could  not  seem  excellent,  therefore, 
marvellously  they  set  out  paradoxes  and  strange  opinions 
against  the  common  faith  of  Christ's  whole  Church.  And  thus 
once  proudly  persuaded  a  wrong  way,  they  take  the  bridle  in 
the  teeth  and  run  forth  like  a  headstrong  horse,  that  all  the  world 
cannot  pluck  them  back.  But,  with  sowing  sedition  and 
setting  forth  of  errors  and  heresies,  and  spicing  their  preaching 
with  rebuking  of  priesthood  and  prelacy,  for  the  people's 
pleasure,  they  turn  many  a  man  to  ruin,  and  themselves  also. 
And  then  the  devil  deceiveth  them  in  their  blind  affections. 
They  take  for  good  zeal  to  the  people  their  malicious  envy,  and 
for  a  great  virtue  their  ardent  appetite  to  preach,  wherein  they 
have  so  great  pride  for  the  people's  praise,  that  preach  I  ween 

*  English  Works,  p.  162. 


they  would,  though  God  would  with  His  own  mouth  command 
them  the  contrary. 

"And  some  have  I  seen,  which,  when  they  have  for  their 
perilous  preaching  been  by  their  prelates  prohibited  to  preach, 
have  proceeded  on  still.  And  for  maintenance  of  their  dis- 
obedience have  amended  the  matter  with  a  heresy,  boldly  and 
stubbornly  defending  that,  since  they  had  cunning  to  preach, 
they  were  by  God  bound  to  preach,  and  that  no  man,  nor  no 
law  that  was  made  or  could  be  made,  had  any  authority  to  for- 
bid them ;  and  this  they  thought  sufficiently  proved  by  the 
words  of  the  Apostles  :  '  We  must  obey  God  rather  than  men  '. 
As  though  these  men  were  Apostles,  now  specially  sent  by  God 
to  preach  heresies  and  sow  seditions  among  Christian  men. 

"  One  of  this  new  kind  of  preachers,  being  demanded  why 
that  he  used  to  say  in  his  sermons  that  now-a-days  men  preached 
not  well  the  gospel,  answered  that  he  thought  so  because  he 
.saw  not  the  preachers  persecuted,  nor  no  strife  nor  business 
arise  upon  their  preaching,  which  things  he  said  and  wrote  was 
the  fruit  of  the  gospel,  because  Christ  said :  '  I  am  not  come  to 
send  peace  into  the  world  but  the  sword'.  Was  not  this  a 
worshipful  understanding,  that  because  Christ  would  make  a 
division  among  infidels,  from  the  remnant  of  them  to  win  some, 
therefore  these  apostles  would  sow  some  cockle  of  dissension 
among  the  Christian  people,  whereby  Christ  might  lose  some 
of  them  ?  "  * 

It  had  been  the  contention  of  Luther  when  asked  whence 
he  got  his  Bible,  except  from  the  Church,  that  the  visible 
Church  had  indeed  been  divinely  and  infallibly  guided  to  dis- 
tinguish between  inspired  and  uninspired  writings,  to  collect 
and  to  preserve  the  written  word  of  God.  Sir  Thomas  had 
replied  that  by  the  same  divine  guidance  she  distinguishes 
between  divine  and  human  traditions,  divine  sacraments  and 
human  ceremonies,  and  especially  that  if  she  can  know  which 

*  lb.,  p.  150. 


is  the  true  Scripture  she  must  know  which  is  the  true  sense  of 
Scripture,  since  Our  Lord  wishes  to  preserve  His  Church,  not 
from  erring  in  one  particular  way,  but  from  erring  at  all.  * 
This  argument  he  pursues  at  great  length  in  his  English  works ; 
but  he  puts  it  all  in  a  short  and  epigrammatic  form  in  the  fol- 
lowing words  :  "  Since  ye  reckon  Christ  none  otherwise  present 
with  His  Church  than  in  [/.^.,  by  means  of]  Holy  Scripture, 
doth  He  give  His  Church  the  right  understanding  of  Holy 
Scripture  or  not?  'What  if  he  do  not?'  quoth  he.  'Marry,' 
quoth  I,  '  then  yourself  seeth  well,  that  they  were  as  well  with- 
out. And  so  should  the  Scripture  stand  them  in  as  good 
stead,  as  a  pair  of  spectacles  should  stand  a  blind  friar.'  "  t 

I  will  conclude  this  notice  of  More's  controversial  writings  by 
the  well-weighed  judgment  of  one  of  the  greatest  of  controversial 
theologians,  Thomas  Stapleton  : — 

"  In  the  English  works  of  More,  which  I  read  through  for 
the  most  part  thirty  years  ago,  I  found  him  most  thoroughly 
versed  in  the  Holy  Scriptures,  and  not  unfamiliar  with  the 
Fathers  and  even  with  scholastic  theology.  He  quotes,  not 
frequently  indeed,  but  appositely  when  necessary,  Augustine, 
Jerome,  Chrysostom,  Cyril,  Hilary,  Bernard,  Gerson.  He 
himself,  when  placed  on  his  defence,  affirmed  that  for  seven :{: 
years  he  had  carefully  read  the  Fathers  to  know  their  teaching 
as  to  the  primacy  of  the  Roman  Pontiff.  And  though  he  was 
then  intent  only  on  one  subject,  who  can  doubt  how  many 
things  a  man  of  such  talent  and  marvellous  memory  would  note 
in  passing  regarding  our  present  heresies  ?  Running  my  eye 
lately  over  many  parts  of  his  works,  I  have  noticed  that  he  had 
well  studied  dogmatic  theology,  so  that  when  he  touches  on 
grace,  free-will,  merit,  the  nature  and  acts  of  faith,  charity  or 
other  virtues,  on  original  sin,  even  on  predestination,  he  so 
manages  his  pen,  and  writes  according  to  the  rules  of  true 

^''  Rcspunsio  ad  LutJicruin,  Lib.  i.  cap.  g. 

\ English  Works,  p.  147. 

X  The  printed  letter  has  seven,  the  original  MS.  ten. 


theology,  that  a  professed  theologian  could  hardly  do  it  more 
accurately  and  fitly. 

"  A  proof  that  he  studiously  read  St.  Thomas  is  in  a  fact 
related  by  John  Harris,  his  secretary.  A  book  by  some  heretic, 
which  had  just  been  printed,  was  brought  to  More,  and  he  read 
it  as  he  was  being  rowed  from  his  house  to  London.  After  a 
little  he  pointed  with  his  finger  to  some  places  and  said  to 
Harris  :  '  See,  the  arguments  of  this  rascal  are  precisely  the 
objections  placed  by  St.  Thomas  in  such  an  article  of  the 
second  question  of  his  second  part  of  the  Summa.  But  the 
villain  says  nothing  about  the  solutions  made  by  the  holy 
doctor  to  the  objections.'  I  myself  have  seen  a  certain  dis- 
putation between  More  and  Father  Alphonsus,  a  minorite,  the 
confessor  of  Queen  Catharine,  in  which  the  former  maintains 
the  opinion  of  Scotus  about  attrition  and  contrition,  as  more 
safe  and  more  probable,  against  the  opinion  of  Occam  ;  so  that 
one  cannot  but  marvel  to  see  how  a  man,  who  throughout  his 
life  was  immersed  in  civil  and  political  matters,  and  was  so* 
excellently  versed  in  profane  literature,  had  not  merely  dipped 
into  theological  and  even  scholastic  questions,  but  made  him 
self  master  of  them."  * 

iNIore's  controversy  with  his  pen  in  defence  of  the  Catholic 
faith  came  to  an  end  at  Christmas,  1533.  Henceforth  we  have 
to  follow  him  in  a  controversy  of  a  very  different  nature,  not 
with  heretics  and  communists,  but  with  the  "  Defender  of  the 
Faith,''  and  the  despotic  master  of  England.  One  matter  con- 
nected with  these  writings  must  be  mentioned  in  conclusion. 
Sir  Thomas  More's  labours  were  in  all  respects  disinterested. 
It  is  not  easy  to  discover  what  were  the  relations  in  the  first 
century  after  the  invention  of  printing  between  authors  and 
their  publishers.  It  would  seem,  however,  that  the  latter,  who 
were  also  printers,  binders,  and  booksellers,  look  all  the  cost 
and  all  the  profit.  They  left  the  author  a  certain  number  of 
copies,  which  he  might  present  to  his  friends  and  especially  to 

*  Vita,  cap.  4. 

312  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

his  patrons.  In  return  for  a  dedication  or  the  presentation  of 
a  book,  the  author  would  sometimes  receive  a  gift  in  money, 
an  office,  or  a  benefice.  There  are  no  dedications  prefixed  to 
More's  EngHsh  works.  It  was,  however,  put  about  that  More 
had  become  a  wealthy  man  by  means  of  his  writings.  In  his 
Apology  he  enters  on  this  matter  fully,  showing  how  small  was 
his  income  from  land  or  other  source ;  and  that,  except  from 
the  royal  grants  or  salaries  belonging  to  his  offices,  "  not  one 
groat "  of  his  yearly  revenue  had  come  to  him  since  he  wrote 
his  first  book.  He  continues:  "But  then  say  the  brethren 
that  I  have  taken  great  rewards  in  ready  money  of  divers  of  the 
clergy".  He  allows  that  a  liberal  offer  had  been  made,  "but 
(he  says)  I  dare  take  God  and  the  clergy  to  record,  that  they 
could  never  fee  me  with  one  penny  thereof;  but  as  I  plainly 
told  them  I  would  rather  have  cast  their  money  into  the 
Thames  than  take  it.  For  albeit  they  were  good  men  and 
honourable,  yet  look  I  for  my  thanks  of  God  that  is  their 
better,  and  for  whose  sake  I  take  the  labour  and  not  for 
theirs.  .  .  .  Although  they  (the  heretics)  should  call  me 
Pharisee  for  the  boast,  and  Pelagian  for  my  labour,  I  am  not 
fully  so  virtueless,  but  that  of  mine  own  natural  disposition, 
Avithout  any  special  peculiar  help  of  grace  thereto,  I  am  both 
over  proud  and  over  slothful  also,  to  be  hired  for  money  to  take 
half  the  labour  and  business  in  writing,  that  I  have  taken  in 
this  gear  since  I  began."  * 

His  son-in-law  gives  us  further  details.  The  clergy  agreed 
to  make  up  a  sum  of  four  or  five  thousand  pounds  at  the  least. 
The  Bishops  of  Durham  (Tunstall),  Bath  (Clark),  and  Exeter 
(Voysey),  were  charged  to  convey  this  present,  and  pressed  it 
on  him ;  on  his  refusal,  they  urged  him  to  bestow  it  on  his 
wife  and  children.  It  was  all  to  no  purpose,  and  the  money 
was  restored  to  the  subscribers. t 

*  Apnlo'^y,  ch.  X.  ;  English  Works,  p.  867. 

t  Roper's  Notes,  xiv.  Sir  J.  Mackintosh  remarks  that  "  ;^50oo  was 
a  hundred  times  the  amount  of  his  income  ;  and  according  to  the  rate  of 
interest  at  that  time  would  have  yielded  him  £soo  a  year". 


*  This  honourable  testimonial  had  been  offered  probably  soon 
after  the  resignation  of  the  chancellorship  in  the  summer  of 
1532.  Still  more  honourable  to  himself  was  his  own  conduct 
when  chancellor,  as  related  by  Roper.  The  water-bailiff  of 
London,  who  had  formerly  been  in  his  service,  heard  certain 
merchants — probably  those  trafficking  with  Germany,  and  who 
were  infested  with  Lutheranism — railing  against  More.  He 
made  it  known  to  the  chancellor,  and  begged  him  to  punish 
their  malice.  Sir  Thomas  replied:  "AVhy,  Mr.  Bailiff,  would 
you  have  me  punish  them  by  whom  I  receive  more  benefit 
than  by  you  that  be  my  friends  ?  Let  them,  in  God's  name, 
tshoot  never  so  many  arrows  at  me ;  as  long  as  they  do  not  hit 
me,  what  am  I  the  worse  ?"* 

A  man  who  would  neither  receive  recompense  from  his 
friends,  nor  resent  injury  from  his  enemies,  was  a  worthy 
champion  of  the  Catholic  faith. 

*  Roper,  n.  viii. 



THE  subject  of  the  last  two  chapters  has  somewhat  inter- 
rupted the  chronological  course  of  this  narrative,  since 
it  was  necessary  to  group  together  matters  extending 
over  several  years,  both  before,  during  and  after  More's  chancel- 
lorship. The  record  of  his  literary  labours  has  brought  us  to 
the  period  of  his  troubles,  which  begins  with  the  year  1534. 
Even  before  his  elevation  he  was  full  of  anxiety,  not  on  his 
own  account,  but  for  the  evils  he  saw  impending  over  the 
Church  and  over  England.  "  Walking  with  me,"  writes  Roper, 
"along  the  Thames'  side  at  Chelsea,  in  talking  of  other  things, 
he  said  to  me  :  '  Now  would  to  Our  Lord,  son  Roper,  upon 
condition  that  three  things  were  well  established  in  Chris- 
tendom, I  were  put  in  a  sack  and  here  presently  cast  into  the 
Thames'.  '  What  great  things  be  those,  sir,'  quoth  I,  'that 
you  should  so  wish?'  'In  faith,  son,  they  be  these,'  quoth 
he ;  '  the  first  is,  that  whereas  the  most  part  of  Christian 
princes  be  at  mortal  wars,  they  were  all  at  universal  peace. 
The  second,  that  whereas  the  Church  of  Christ  is  at  this  present 
sore  afflicted  with  many  errors  and  heresies,  it  were  settled  in 
perfect  uniformity  of  religion ;  the  third,  that  whereas  the 
matter  of  the  king's  marriage  is  now  come  in  question,  it  were 
to  the  glory  of  God  and  quietness  of  all  parties  brought  to  a 
good  conclusion.'"  Roper  does  not  give  the  date  of  this 
conversation ;    from   the   mention   of  war,    it  would   seem  to 


have  been  in  1528,  before  More's  last  embassy  to  Cambrai. 
He  did  his  best  to  bring  about  peace  from  national  strife,  and 
to  prevent  the  spread  of  heresy ;  with  regard  to  the  divorce, 
as  he  could  do  no  good,  he  prudently  kept  aloof. 

When  he  laid  down  the  chancellorship,  he  had  received  the 
assurance  from  the  king  of  his  continued  favour,  but  he  had 
good  reasons  to  distrust  one  so  capricious  and  despotic,  now 
carried  forward  by  passion  and  surrounded  by  bad  advisers. 
Roper  tells  us  of  the  advice  he  gave  to  Thomas  Cromwell. 
"  INIr.  Cromwell,"  said  More,  "  you  are  now  entered  into  the 
service  of  a  most  noble,  wise,  and  liberal  prince  ;  if  you  will 
follow  my  poor  advice,  you  shall,  in  your  counsel-giving  to  his 
Grace,  ever  tell  him  what  he  ought  to  do,  but  never  what  he 
is  able  to  do ;  for  if  the  lion  knew  his  own  strength,  hard  were 
it  for  any  man  to  rule  him."  Unfortunately,  Cromwell  did  the 
very  opposite,  and  became  the  evil  genius  of  the  king,  finding 
prey  for  the  lion,  until  at  last  he  was  himself  devoured.  During 
the  later  months  of  1532  and  the  whole  of  1533  Sir  Thomas 
avoided  Henry's  court  as  much  as  possible,  and  gave  himself 
to  the  composition  of  his  books.  He  was,  however,  a  careful 
observer,  and  while  meditating  his  own  course,  was  preparing  for 
the  worst.  When  the  divorce  was  pronounced  by  Cranmer, 
Sir  Thomas  said  to  his  son-in-law:  "God  grant,  son,  that 
these  matters  within  a  while  be  not  confirmed  with  oaths ". 
At  Pentecost,  1533,  Anne  Boleyn,  who  had  been  secretly 
married  to  the  king  before  the  pretended  divorce,  and  after- 
wards publicly  acknowledged  as  {jueen,  made  her  magnificent 
entry  into  London  for  her  coronation.  More's  holy  friend, 
Fisher,  had  been  arrested,  and  kept  out  of  the  way,  for  it  was 
known  he  would  take  no  part  in  such  an  act.  It  was,  no 
doubt,  supposed  that  Sir  Thomas  would  not  dare  to  absent 
himself.  Yet  this  he  did.  The  matter  is  thus  related  by 
Roper :  "  He  received  a  letter  from  the  Bishops  of  Durham, 
Bath,  and  Winchester  (Tunstall,  Clerk,  and  Gardiner),  re- 
questing  iiim    both  to  keep    their  company   from  the  Tower 


1 6  SIR    THOM'AS    MORE. 

to  the  coronation,  and  also  to  take  ;£^20  (that  by  the  bearer 
4:hereof  they  had  sent  him),  to  buy  him  a  gown ;  which  he 
thankfully  receiving,  still  tarried  at  home.  At  their  next 
meeting  he  said  merrily :  '  My  lords,  you  required  two  things 
of  me,  the  one  I  was  so  well  content  to  grant,  that  I  thought 
I  might  be  the  bolder  to  deny  the  other'.  He  then  explained 
that  he  took  the  money  because  the  bishops  were  rich  and  he 
was  poor;  but  his  reason  for  refusing  the  invitation  he  illus- 
trated by  one  of  his  merry  tales,  the  moral  of  which  was  that 
the  bishops  were  in  danger  of  losing  their  honour  first,  and 
being  afterwards  destroyed,  but  as  for  himself,  destroyed  he 
might  be,  but  dishonoured  he  was  resolved  he  would  not  be. 

It  was  noticed  in  his  family  that  he  would  now  often  speak 
of  "  the  joys  of  heaven  and  the  pains  of  hell,  of  the  lives  of  the 
holy  martyrs,  of  their  marvellous  patience,  and  what  a  happy 
and  blessed  thing  it  was  for  the  love  of  God  to  suffer  the  loss  of 
goods,  of  liberty,  and  even  life.  He  would  add  that  for  himself, 
if  he  could  perceive  himself  encouraged  by  his  wife  and  children 
to  die  in  a  good  cause,  for  joy  thereof  he  would  merrily  run  to 
death."  *  Notwithstanding  this  interior  readiness  to  suffer,  no 
one  could  be  more  cautious  to  give  no  unnecessary  offence. 
Sir  James  Mackintosh  remarks  that  "  he  most  warily  retired 
from  every  opposition  but  that  which  conscience  absolutely 
required.  He  displayed  that  very  peculiar  excellence  of  his 
character,  which,  as  it  showed  his  submission  to  be  the  fruit 
of  sense  of  duty,  gave  dignity  to  that  which  in  others  is  apt  to 
seem  and  to  be  slavish."  f 

He  had  himself  written  as  follows  :  "  Our  Lord  advised 
J  His  disciples  that  if  they  were  pursued  in  one  city,  they  should 
not  come  forth  and  foolhardily  put  themselves  in  peril  of  denying 
Christ  by  impatience  of  some  intolerable  torments,  but  rather 
flee  thence  into  some  other  place,  where  they  might  serve  Him 
in  quiet,  till  He  should  suffer  them  to'  fall  in  such  point  that 
there  were  no  way  to  escape.     And  then  would  He  have  them 

*  Roper.  t  Life  of  More,  p.  150. 



abide  by  their  tackling  like  mighty  champions,  wherein  they 
shall  not  in  such  case  fail  of  His  help."* 

It  seems  probable  that  Anne  Boleyn,  indignant  at  the  slight 
offered  her  by  More's  absence  from  her  coronation,  and  his 
known  disapproval  of  the  divorce,  plotted  either  his  humiliation 
or  his  ruin. 

About  Christmas,  1533,  a  book  or  proclamation  of  nine 
articles  was  devised  by  the  king's  Council  in  justification  of  his 
marriage.     The  principal  points  were  the  following: — 

1.  That  Cranmer's  judgment  was  founded  on  the  decisions 

of  the  most  famous  universities  and  of  the  whole 
English  clergy. 

2.  That  causes  should  not  be  removed  from  the  country 
where  they  are  initiated;  and  that  parliament  did  not 
desire  the  inheritance  of  this  realm  to  depend  on  the 
Bishop  of  Rome,  by  some  men  called  Pope. 

4,5,6.  That  the  General  Council  is  superior  to  all  bishops ; 
that  any  man,  especially  a  prince,  may  appeal  from  the 
Bishop  of  Rome  to  the  Council,  and  after  his  appeal 
may  despise  the  Pope's  censures. 

8.  That  bishops  are  bound  to  admonish  before  excom- 

municating; which  course  has  been  followed  by  ''our 
good  Archbishop  of  Canterbury  admonishing  the  king 
that  he  lived  in  unlawful  matrimony  ". 

9.  That  the  Pope  is  by  birth  illegitimate,  guilty  of  simony 
(at  his  election),  and  of  heresy  in  refusing  the  king's 
appeal,  f 

It  seems  that  some  pamphlet  appeared  in  answer  to  the 
al)Ove  proclamation,  and  i\Iore  was  suspected  of  being  its 
author.  His  nephew,  William  Rastell,  son  of  John  Rastell 
and  Elizabeth  More,  afterwards  a  lawyer  and  a  judge,  was  at 
that  time  following  his  father's  business  of  a  publisher.  He 
was  called  before  the  Council,  and  denied  any  knowledge  of 
the  book.     This  caused  More  to  write  the  following  letter  to 

■*  English    Works,  p.  278.  t  Letters  and  Papers,  vii.  i. 

^l8  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Cromwell,  at  that  time  Master  of  the  Jewel  House  and  secretary 
to  the  king: — 

"Right  Worshipful, — 

"  In  my  most  hearty  wise  I  recommend  me  unto 


Sir, — My  cousin,*  William  Rastell,  hath  informed  me,  that 
your  mastership  of  your  goodness  sho\ved  him  that  it  hath  been 
reported  that  I  have,  against  the  book  of  certain  articles,  which 
was  late  put  forth  in  print  by  the  king's  honourable  Council, 
made  an  answer,  and  delivered  it  unto  my  said  cousin  to  print. 
And  albeit  that  he  for  his  part  truly  denied  it,  yet  because  he 
somewhat  remained  in  doubt  whether  your  mastership  gave 
him  therein  credence  or  not,  he  desired  me  for  his  farther  dis- 
charge to  declare  you  the  very  truth.  Sir,  as  help  me  God, 
neither  my  said  cousin  nor  any  man  else  never  had  any  book 
of  mine  to  print,  one  or  other,  since  the  said  book  of  the  king's 
Council  came  forth.  For  of  truth  the  last  book  that  he  printed 
of  mine  was  that  book  that  I  made  against  an  unknown  heretic, 
which  hath  sent  over  a  work  that  walketh  in  over  many  men's 
hands,  named  the  Supper  of  the  Lord,  against  the  Blessed 
Sacrament  of  the  Altar.  My  answer  w^hereunto,  albeit  that  the 
printer,  unware  to  me,  dated  it  anno  1534,  by  which  it  seemeth 
to  be  printed  since  the  Feast  of  the  Circumcision,  yet  w^as  it  of 
very  truth  both  made  and  printed,  and  many  of  them  gone, 
before  Christmas.  And  myself  never  espied  the  printer's  over- 
sight in  the  date,  in  more  than  three  weeks  after.  And  this  was 
in  good  faith  the  last  book  that  my  cousin  had  of  mine.  Which 
being  true,  as  of  truth  it  shall  be  found,  sufficeth  for  his  declara- 
tion in  this  behalf. 

"  As  touching  my  own  self,  I  shall  say  thus  much  farther,  that 

■*  W.  Rastell  was  Sir  Thomas's  nephew.  Cousin  {consaui^iiijicus)  is  a 
general  term  for  kin.  Nephew  {ncpos)  meant  grandson  or  descendent  in 
remote  degree.  More  thus  writes  (p.  638):  "  Whether  the  old  doctors, 
whom  these  men  call  grandfathers,  or  else  these  young  new  naughty 
nephews,  be  better  to  be  believed*'. 


on  my  faith  I  never  made  any  such  book  nor  never  thought  to 
do.  I  read  the  said  book  [the  proclamation]  once  over,  and 
never  more.  But  I  am  for  once  reading  very  far  off  from  many 
things,  whereof  I  would  have  meetly  sure  knowledge  ere  ever 
I  would  make  an  answer,  though  the  matter  and  the  book 
both  concerned  the  poorest  man  in  a  town,  and  were  of  the 
simplest  man's  making  too.  For  of  many  things  which  in  that 
book  be  touched,  in  some  I  know  not  the  law,  and  in  some  I 
know  not  the  fact.  And,  therefore,  would  I  never  be  so 
childish,  nor  so  play  the  proud,  arrogant  fool,  by  whomsoever 
the  book  had  been  made,  and  to  whomsoever  the  matter  had 
belonged,  as  to  presume  to  make  an  answer  to  the  book,  con- 
cerning the  matter  whereof  I  never  was  sufficiently  learned  in  the 
laws,  nor  fully  instructed  in  the  facts.  And  then,  while  the 
matter  pertained  unto  the  king's  Highness,  and  the  book 
professeth  openly  that  it  was  made  by  his  honourable  Council, 
and  by  them  put  in  print  with  His  Grace's  license  obtained 
thereto,  I  verily  trust  in  good  faith  that,  of  your  good  mind 
towards  me,  though  I  never  wrote  you  word  thereof,  yourself 
will  both  think  and  say  so  much  for  me,  that  it  were  a  thing  far 
unlikely  that  an  answer  should  be  made  thereunto  by  me. 

"  I  will  by  the  grace  of  Almighty  God,  as  long  as  it  shall 
please  Him  to  lend  me  life  in  this  world,  in  all  such  places  as 
I  am  of  my  duty  to  God  and  the  king's  Grace  bound,  truly  say 
my  mind  and  discharge  my  conscience  as  becometh  a  poor, 
honest,  true  man,  wheresoever  I  shall  be  by  His  Grace  com- 
manded. Yet  surely  if  it  should  happen  any  book  to  come 
abroad  in  the  name  of  His  Grace  or  his  honourable  Council, 
if  that  book  to  me  seemed  such  as  myself  would  not  have  given 
mine  own  advice  to  the  making,  yet  I  know  my  bounden  duty 
to  bear  more  honour  to  my  prince,  and  more  reverence  to  his 
honourable  Council,  than  that  it  could  become  me  for  many 
causes  to  make  an  answer  to  such  a  book,  or  to  counsel  and 
advise  any  man  else  to  do  it.  And,  therefore,  as  it  is  a  thing  I 
never  did  nor  intended,  so  I  heartily  beseech  you,  if  you  shall 

320  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

happen  to  perceive  any  man,  either  of  evil  will  or  of  lightness, 
any  such  thing  report  by  me,  be  so  good  master  to  me  as 
help  to  bring  us  both  together.  And  then  never  take  me 
for  honest  after,  but  if  you  find  his  honesty  somewhat  impaired 
in  the  matter.  Thus  am  I  bold  upon  your  goodness  to 
encumber  you  with  my  long,  rude  letter,  in  the  contents 
whereof  I  eftsoon  heartily  beseech  you  to  be,  in  manner  afore- 
said, good  master  and  friend  unto  me  ;  whereby  you  shall 
bind  me  to  be  your  bedes-man  while  I  live,  as  knoweth  Our 
Lord,  whose  especial  grace  both  bodily  and  ghostly  long 
preserve  and  keep  you. 

"At  Chelsea  in  the  vigil  of  the  Purification  of  Our  Blessed 

L^^dy  [1534], 

"  By  the  hand  of, 

"Assuredly  all  your  own, 

"Thomas  More,  Knight."* 

*  Englisli   Works,  p.  1422.      Chelsea  is  written  Chelchithe  ;  in  other 
letters  it  is  Chelsey. 



NO  further  mention  occurs  in  any  paper  now  extant  of  the 
charge  related  in  the  last  chapter ;   but  in  the  mean- 
time another  had  been  in  preparation  :  a  charge  of  mis- 
prision of  treason,  that  is,  of  knowledge  and  concealment  of 
treason  in  the  matter  of  the  Holy  Maid  of  Kent. 

Very  few  words  will  be  sufficient  as  an  introduction  to  the 
letters  that  follow.  Elizabeth  Barton,  a  Kentish  servant-maid, 
subject  in  her  youth  to  falling  sickness,  was  said  to  have  been 
cured  in  a  chapel  of  Our  Lady,  and  had  become  a  nun  at 
Canterbury.  She  was  supposed  to  receive  revelations  from 
God,  and  acquired  so  great  a  reputation  that  she  was  commonly 
spoken  of  as  the  Holy  Maid  of  Kent.  From  the  time  the  king's 
divorce  from  Queen  Katharine  was  first  mooted,  her  revelations 
took  a  political  character ;  she  declared  herself  commissioned 
by  God  to  admonish  and  to  threaten  the  king  if  he  persisted, 
and  she  visited,  for  the  making  known  of  these  celestial  warn- 
ings, not  only  her  diocesan.  Archbishop  Warham,  but  Cardinal 
Wolseyand  Henry  himself.  At  last,  in  the  autumn  of  1533,  she 
was  supposed  to  be  the  tool  of  a  party  opposed  to  the  divorce, 
and  was  arrested  and  examined,  together  with  some  Benedictine 
monks,  some  Observant  Franciscan  friars,  some  secular  priests 
and  laymen.  Of  the  truth  of  the  accusations  made  against  her 
and  them  we  need  not  inquire.  It  is  well-known  that  several, 
amongst  whom  was  the  Blessed  John  Fisher,  Bishop  ofRoches- 


322  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

ter,  were  attainted  of  misprision  of  treason,  and  several  others, 
including  the  nun,  of  treason,  and  that  these  were  executed  at 
Tyburn  on  21st  April,  1534.  I  shall  here  confine  myself  to 
what  regards  Sir  Thomas  More.* 

From  documents  lately  published  it  appears  that  it  was  Crom- 
well who,  without  a  vestige  of  evidence  and  in  the  face  of 
evidence  to  the  contrary,  sought  to  include  More  in  a  matter 
from  which  he  had  with  the  utmost  circumspection  kept  him- 
self free.  Father  Hugh  Rich,  one  of  the  accused  Franciscans, 
stated  in  reply  to  interrogations  :  "  He  confesseth  that  he  hath 
shewed  other  revelations  to  Sir  T.  More,  but  none  concerning 
the  king,  for  he  would  not  hear  them".  This  passage  was 
struck  through,  and  the  name  of  More  inserted  by  Cromwell 
himself  among  those  to  whom  the  revelations  about  the  king 
were  made  known. f  The  Notes  or  Remembrances  kept  by 
Cromwell  were  seized  at  his  attainder  and  are  still  in  existence, 
betraying  his  action  day  by  day.  In  January,  1534,  we  find: 
"To  cause  indictments  to  be  drawn  up  for  the  offenders  in 
treason  and  misprision  concerning  the  nun  of  Canterbury  "  ;  :|: 
and  "  Eftsoons  to  remember  Master  More  to  the  king ".  § 
Another  document,  which  is  too  mutilated  to  give  us  any 
positive  information,  shows  how  evidence  was  being  sought 
against  More,  as  regards  his  domestic  conversation.  || 

The  following  letter  gives  a  minute  statement  of  all  the 
action  of  Sir  Thomas  in  the  matter.  It  bears  no  date,  but  it 
alludes  to  the  confession  of  the  nun  at  St.  Paul's  Cross,  which 
was  on  23rd  November,  1533,  and  was  written  before  the  bill 
of  attainder  was  brought  into  parliament  in  the  middle  of  the 
following  February.     The  letter  is  addressed  to  Cromwell  : — 

*  I  have  entered  into  more  detail  and  discussed  Blessed  John  Fisher's 
share  in  this  matter  in  my  Life  of  Fisher, 
f  Letters  and  Papers,  vi.  1468. 
Xlb.,  vii.  48. 
§J&.,5o,  108. 
11/6.,  290. 

the  holy  maid  of  kent.  323 

"  Right  Worshipful, — 

"  After  my  most  hearty  recommendation,  with  hke 
thanks  for  your  goodness,  in  accepting  of  my  rude,  long  letter. 
I  perceive,  that  of  your  further  goodness  and  favour  towards 
me,  it  liked  your  mastership  to  break  with  my  son  Roper,  of 
that,  that  I  had  had  communication  not  only  with  divers  that 
were  of  acquaintance  with  the  lewd  *  nun  of  Canterbury,  but 
also  with  herself;  and  had,  over  that,  by  my  writing,  declaring 
favour  towards  her,  given  her  advice  and  counsel ;  of  which 
my  demeanour,  that  it  liketh  you  to  be  content  to  take  the 
labour  and  the  pain  to  hear,  by  mine  own  writing,  the  truth,  I 
very  heartily  thank  you,  and  reckon  myself  therein  right  deeply 
beholden  to  you. 

"  It  is,  I  suppose,  about  eight  or  nine  years  ago  since  I  heard 
of  that  housewife  1  first ;  at  which  time  the  Bishop  of  Canter- 
bury that  then  was  (God  assoil  his  soul)  sent  unto  the  king's 
Grace  a  roll  of  paper,  in  which  were  written  certain  words  of 
hers,  that  she  had,  as  report  was  then  made,  at  sundry  times 
spoken  in  her  trances  ;  whereupon  it  pleased  the  king's  Grace 
to  deliver  me  the  roll,  commanding  me  to  look  thereon,  and 
afterwards  show  him  what  I  thought  therein,  Whereunto,  at 
another  time,  when  His  Highness  asked  me,  I  told  him,  that  in 
good  faith  I  found  nothing  in  these  words  that  I  could  any 
thing  regard  or  esteem ;  for  seeing  that  some  part  fell  in 
rhythm,  and  that,  God  wot,  full  rude  also,  for  any  reason, 
God  wot,  that  I  saw  therein,  a  right  simple  woman  might,  in 
my  mind,  speak  it  of  her  own  wit  well  enough.  Howbeit,  I 
said,  that  because  it  was  constantly  reported  for  a  truth,  that 
God  wrought  in  her,  and  that  a  miracle  was  shewed  upon  her, 
I   durst   not,  nor   would  not,  be  bold  in  judging  the  matter. 

*  The  word  "lewd  "  in  the  sixteenth  century  had  not  the  definite  mean- 
ing now  attached  to  it.  It  was  a  contemptuous  epithet  for  one  who 
was  ignorant,  cunning,  or  malicious. 

t  A  contemptuous  term  ;  a  hussy. 

324  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

And  the  king's  Grace,  as  me  thought,  esteemed  the  matter  as 
Hght  as  it  after  proved  lewd. 

"From  that  time  till  about  Christmas  was  twelvemonth, 
albeit  that  continually  there  was  much  talkmg  of  her,  and  of  her 
holiness,  yet  never  heard  I  any  talk  rehearsed,  either  of  revela- 
tion of  hers,  or  miracle,  saving  that  I  heard  say  divers  times, 
in  my  lord  cardinal's  days,  that  she  had  been  both  with  his 
lordship  and  with  the  king's  Grace,  but  what  she  said,  either  to 
the  one  or  to  the  other,  upon  my  faith  I  had  never  heard  any 
one  word.  Now,  as  I  was  about  to  tell  you,  about  Christmas 
was  twelvemonth,  Father  Risby,  Friar  Observant,  then  of 
Canterbury,  lodged  one  night  at  mine  house  ;  where,  after 
supper,  a  little  before  he  went  to  his  chamber,  he  fell  in  com- 
munication with  me  of  the  nun,  giving  her  high  commendation 
of  holiness,  and  that  it  was  wonderful  to  see  and  understand 
the  works  that  God  wrought  in  her ;  which  thing,  I  answered, 
that  I  was  very  glad  to  hear  it,  and  thanked  God  thereof.  Then 
he  told  me  that  she  had  been  with  my  lord  legate  in  his  life, 
and  with  the  king's  Grace  too ;  and  that  she  had  told  my  lord 
legate  a  revelation  of  hers,  of  three  swords  that  God  had  put 
in  my  lord  legate's  hand,  which  if  he  ordered  not  well  God 
would  lay  it  sore  to  his  charge.  The  first,  he  said,  was  the 
ordering  the  spirituality  under  the  Pope,  as  legate.  The 
second,  the  rule  that  he  bore  in  order  of  the  temporalty  under 
the  king,  as  his  chancellor.  And  the  third,  she  said,  was  the 
meddling  he  was  put  in  trust  with  by  the  king,  concerning  the 
great  matter  of  his  marriage.  And  therewithal  I  said  unto 
him,  that  any  revelation  of  the  king's  matters  I  would  not  hear 
of;  I  doubt  not  that  the  goodness  of  God  should  direct  His 
Highness  with  His  grace  and  wisdom,  that  the  thing  should 
take  such  end  as  God  should  be  pleased  with,  to  the  king's 
honour  and  surety  of  the  realm.  When  he  heard  me  say  these 
words,  or  the  like,  he  said  unto  me,  that  God  had  specially 
commanded  her  to  pray  for  the  king ;  and  forthwith  he  brake 
again  into  her  revelations  concerning  the  cardinal,  that  his  soul 

THE    HOLY    MAID    OF    KENT.  325 

was  saved  by  her  mediation ;  and  without  any  other  com- 
munication went  into  his  chamber.  And  he  and  I  never  talked 
any  more  of  any  such  manner  of  matter,  nor  since  his  departing 
on  the  morrow  I  never  saw  him  afterwards,  to  my  remem- 
brance, till  I  saw  him  at  St.  Paul's  Cross. 

"  After  this,  about  Shrovetide,  there  came  unto  me,  a  little 
before  supper,  Father  Rich,  Friar  Observant  of  Richmond  ;  and 
as  we  fell  in  talking,  I  asked  him  of  Father  Risby,  how  he  did ; 
and  upon  that  occasion,  he  asked  me,  whether  Father  Risby  had 
any  thing  showed  me  of  the  holy  nun  of  Kent ;  and  I  said, 
yea,  and  that  I  was  very  glad  to  hear  of  her  virtue.  '  I  would 
not,'  quoth  he,  'tell  you  again  that  you  have  heard  of  him  al- 
ready ;  but  I  have  heard,  and  known,  many  great  graces  that 
God  hath  wrought  in  her,  and  in  other  folks,  by  her,  which  I 
would  gladly  tell  you,  if  I  thought  you  had  not  heard  them  al- 
ready.' And  therewith  he  asked  me,  whether  Father  Risby  had 
told  me  anything  of  her  being  with  my  lord  cardinal ;  and  I 
said,  'Yea'.  'Then  he  told  you,'  quoth  he,  'of  the  three  swords?' 
'Yea,  verily,' quoth  I.  'Did  he  tell  you,'  quoth  he,  'of  the  revela- 
tions that  she  had  concerning  the  king's  Grace  ?'  'Nay  forsooth,' 
quoth  I,  '  nor  if  he  would  have  done,  I  would  not  have  given 
him  a  hearing  ;  nor  verily  no  more  I  would  indeed,  for  since 
she  hath  been  with  the  king's  Grace  herself,  and  told  him,  me- 
thought  it  a  thing  needless  to  tell  me,  or  to  any  man  else.'  And 
when  Father  Rich  perceived  that  I  would  not  hear  her  revela- 
tions concerning  the  king's  Grace,  he  talked  on  a  little  of  her 
virtue,  and  let  her  revelations  alone ;  and  therewith  my  supper 
was  set  upon  the  board,  where  I  required  him  to  sit  with  me  ; 
but  he  would  in  no  wise  tarry,  but  departed  to  London.  After 
that  night  I  talked  with  him  twice,  once  in  mine  own  house, 
another  time  in  his  own  garden  at  the  Friars,  at  every  time  a 
great  space,  but  not  of  any  revelations  touching  the  king's 
Grace,  but  only  of  other  mean  folk,  I  knew  not  whom,  of  which 
things  some  were  very  strange,  and  some  were  very  childish. 
But  albeit  that  he  said  he  had  seen  her  lie  in  her  trance  in  great 

326  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

pains,  and  that  he  had  at  other  times  taken  great  spiritual  com- 
fort in  her  communication  ;  yet  did  he  never  tell  me  that  she 
had  told  him  those  tales  herself ;  for  if  he  had,  I  would,  for  the 
tale  of  Mary  Magdalen  which  he  told  me,  and  for  the  tale  of 
the  hostie,  with  which,  as  I  have  heard,  she  said  she  was  housled 
at  the  king's  Mass  at  Calais — if  I  had  heard  it  of  him  as  told 
unto  himself  by  her  mouth  for  a  revelation,  I  would  have  both 
liked  him  and  her  the  worse.  But  whether  ever  I  heard  the 
same  tale  of  Rich  or  of  Risby,  or  of  neither  of  them  both,  but 
of  some  other  man  since  she  was  in  hold,  in  good  faith  I  can- 
not tell  :  but  I  wot  well  when  or  wheresoever  I  heard  it,  me- 
thought  it  a  tale  too  marvellous  to  be  true,  and  very  likely  that 
she  had  told  some  man  her  dream,  which  told  it  out  for  a  reve- 
lation. And  in  effect  I  little  doubted  but  that  some  of  these 
tales  that  were  told  of  her  were  untrue  ;  but  yet,  since  I  never 
heard  them  reported  as  spoken  by  her  own  mouth,  I  thought 
nevertheless  that  manyjof  them  might  be  true,  and  she  a  very 
virtuous  woman  too ;  as  some  lies  be  peradventure  written  of 
some  that  be  saints  in  heaven,  and  yet  many  miracles  indeed 
done  by  them  for  all  that. 

"After  this,  I  being  upon  a  day  at  Sion,  and  talking  with  the 
fathers  together  at  the  grate,  they  showed  me  that  she  had  been 
with  them,  and  showed  me  divers  things  that  some  of  them 
misliked  in  her;  and  in  this  talking  they  wished  that  I  had 
spoken  with  her,  and  said  they  would  fain  see  how  I  should 
like  her.  Whereupon,  afterwards,  when  I  heard  that  she  was 
there  again,  I  came  thither  to  see  her,  and  to  speak  with  her 
myself.  At  which  communication  had,  in  a  little  chapel,  there 
were  none  present  but  we  two ;  in  the  beginning  whereof  I 
showed  that  my  coming  to  her  was  not  of  any  curious  mind, 
any  thing  to  know  of  such  things  as  folks  talked  that  it  pleased 
God  to  reveal  and  show  unto  her,  but  for  the  great  virtue  that 
I  had  heard  so  many  years,  every  day  more  and  more  spoken 
and  reported  of  lier;  I,  therefore,  had  a  great  mind  to  see  her 
and  be  acquainted  with  her,  that  she  might  have  somewhat  the 

THE    HOLY    MAID    OF    KENT.  327 

more  occasion  to  remembe.  me  to  Cxod  in  her  devotion  and 
prayers  ;  whereunto  she  gave  me  a  very  good,  virtuous  answer, 
that  as  God  did  of  His  goodness  far  better  by  her  than  she,  a 
poor  wretch,  was  worthy,  so  she  feared  that  many  folk,  yet 
beside  that,  spoke  of  their  own  favourable  minds  many  things 
for  her,  far  above  the  truth,  and  that  of  me  she  had  many  such 
things  heard,  that  already  she  prayed  for  me,  and  ever  would ; 
whereof  I  heartily  thanked  her.  I  said  unto  her:  'Madam,  one 
Helen,  a  maiden  dwelling  about  Tottenham,  of  whose  trances 
and  revelations  there  hath  been  much  talking,  she  hath  been 
with  me  of  late,  and  showed  me  that  she  was  with  you,  and 
that  after  the  rehearsal  of  such  visions  as  she  had  seen,  you 
showed  her  that  they  were  no  revelations,  but  plain  illusions  of 
the  devil,  and  advised  her  to  cast  them  out  of  her  mind;  and 
verily  she  gave  therein  good  credence  unto  you,  and  thereupon 
hath  left  to  lean  any  longer  unto  such  visions  of  her  own  ; 
whereupon  she  saith  she  findeth  your  words  true,  for  ever  since 
she  hath  been  the  less  visited  with  such  things  as  she  was  wont 
to  be  before'.  To  this  she  answered  me,  'F'orsooth,  sir,  there 
is  m  this  point  no  praise  unto  me,  but  the  goodness  of  God,  as 
it  appeareth,  hath  wrought  much  meekness  in  her  soul,  which 
hath  taken  my  rude  warning  so  well,  and  not  grudged  to  hear 
her  spirit  and  her  visions  reproved '.  I  liked  her,  in  good  faith, 
better  for  this  answer,  than  for  many  of  these  things  that  I 
heard  reported  by*  her.  Afterwards  she  told  me,  upon  that 
occasion,  how  great  need  folk  have,  that  are  visited  with  such 
visions,  to  take  heed,  and  prove  well  of  what  spirit  they  come 
of;  and  in  that  communication  she  told  me,  that  of  late  the 
devil,  in  likeness  of  a  bird,  was  flying  and  fluttering  about 
her  in  a  chamber,  and  suffered  himself  to  be  taken  ;  and  being 
in  hands,  suddenly  changed,  in  their  sight  that  were  present, 
into  such  a  strange,  ugly-fashioned  bird,  that  they  were  all 
afraid,  and  threw  him  out  at  a  window. 

"  For  conclusion,  we  talked  no  word  of  the  king's  Grace,  or 

*  i.e.,  of  her  ;  concerning  her. 

328  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

any  great  personage  else,  nor  in  effect,  of  any  man  or  woman, 
but  of  herself  and  myself;  but  after  no  long  communication 
had,  for  or  [ere]  ever  we  met  my  time  came  to  go  home,  I  gave 
her  a  double  ducat,  and  prayed  her  to  pray  for  me  and  mine, 
and  so  departed  from  her,  and  never  spake  with  her  after. 
Howbeit,  of  a  truth,  I  had  a  great  good  opinion  of  her,  and  had 
her  in  great  estimation,  as  you  shall  perceive  by  the  letter  that 
I  wrote  unto  her.  For  afterwards,  because  I  had  often  heard 
that  many  right  worshipful  folks,  as  well  men  as  w^omen,  used 
to  have  much  communication  with  her ;  and  many  folk  are  of 
nature  inquisitive  and  curious,  whereby  they  fall  som.etimes  into 
such  talking,  and  better  were  to  forbear,  of  which  thing  I 
nothing  thought  w^hile  I  talked  with  her  of  charity  ;  therefore,  I 
wrote  her  a  letter  thereof,  which,  since  it  may  be,  peradventure, 
that  she  brake*  or  lost,  I  shall  insert  the  very  copy  thereof  in 
this  present  letter. 

"  These  were  the  z>e?y  words : — 

"  '  Good  Madam  and  my  right  dearly  beloved  Sister  in  our 
Lord  God, 

"  *  After  most  hearty  commendation,  I  shall  beseech  you  to 
take  my  good  mind  in  good  worth,  and  pardon  me,  that  I  am 
so  homely  as  of  myself  unrequired,  and  also  without  necessity, 
to  give  counsel  to  you,  of  whom  for  the  good  inspirations,  and 
great  revelations  that  it  liketh  Almighty  God  of  His  goodness 
to  give  and  show,  as  many  wise,  well-learned,  and  very  virtuous 
folk  testify,  I  myself  have  need,  for  the  comfort  of  my  soul,  to 
require  and  ask  advice.  For  surely,  good  madam,  since  it 
pleased  God  sometime  to  suffer,  such  as  are  far  under  and  of 
little  estimation,  to  give  yet  fruitful  advertisement  to  such  other 
as  are  in  the  light  of  the  Spirit  so  far  above  them,  that  there 
were  between  them  no  comparison — as  He  suffered  His  high 
prophet  Moses  to  be  in  some  things  advised  and  counselled 

*  i.e.,  tore  up. 

THE    HOLY    MAID    OF    KENT.  329 

by  Jethro — I  cannot,  for  the  love  that  in  Our  Lord  I  bear  you, 
refrain  to  put  you  in  remembrance  of  one  thing,  which  in  my 
poor   mind   I   think  highly   necessary  to   be  by  your  wisdom 
considered,  referring   the   end  and  the  order  thereof  to  God 
and   His  Holy  Spirit  to  direct  you.     Good  madam,   I  doubt 
not   but  that    you   remember  that    in    the    beginning    of  my 
communication   with  you   I  shewed  you  that    I  neither    was, 
nor  would  be,  curious  of  any  knowledge  of  other  men's  matters, 
and  least  of  all  of  any  matter  of  princes,  or  of  the  realm,  in 
case  it  so  were  that  God  had,   as  to  many  good  folks  before- 
time  He  hath,   any  time  revealed  unto  you  such   things ;    I 
said  unto  your  ladyship,  that  I  was  not  only  not  desirous  to 
hear  of,  but  also  would  not  hear  of     Now,  madam,  I  consider 
well  that  many  folk  desire  to  speak  with  you  which  are  not 
all  peradventure  of  my  mind  in  this  point ;  but  some  hap  to 
be  curious  and  inquisitive  of  things   that   little  pertain   unto 
their  parts;  and  some  migt  peradventure  hap  to  talk  of  such 
things  as  might  after  turn  to  much  harm  ;  as  I  think  you  have 
heard  how  the  late  Duke  of  Buckingham,    moved  with    the 
fame  of  one  that  was  reported  for  an  holy  monk,  and  had  such 
talking  with  him,  as  after  was  a  great  part  of  his  destruction, 
and  disheriting  of  his  blood,  and  great  slander  and  infamy  of 
religion.*       It    sufificeth    me,    good    madam,    to    put    you    in 
remembrance  of  such  things  as  I  nothing  doubt  your  wisdom 
and  the  Spirit  of  God  shall  keep  you  from  talking  with  any 
person,  specially  with  high  persons,  of  any  such  manner  things 
as  pertain  to  princes'  affairs,  or  the  state  of  the  realm,  but  only 
to  commune  and  talk  with  any  person,  high  and  low,  of  any 
such  manner  things  as  may  to  the  soul  be  profitable  for  you 
to  show,  and  for  them  to  know.       And  thus,  my  good  lady 
and  dearly  beloved  sister  in  Our  Lord,  I  make  an  end  of  this 
my  needless  advertisement  unto  you,  whom  the  Blessed  Trinity 
preserve   and    increase    in    grace,   and    put    in    your   mind   to 
recommend  me  and  mine  unto  Him  in  your  devout  prayers. 
*  Executed  in  May,  1521,  on  a  charge  of  treason. 

330  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

"  '  At  Chelsey,  this  Tuesday,  by  the  hand  of  your  hearty 
loving  brother  and  beadsman, 

'"Thomas  More,  Kt.' 

"  At  the  receipt  of  this  letter,  she  answered  my  servant  that 
she  heartily  thanked  me  :  soon  after  this  there  came  to  mine 
house  the  prior  of  the  Charterhouse  at  bhene,  and  one  Brother 
Williams  with  him,  who  nothing  talked  to  me  but  of  her,  and 
of  the  great  joy  that  they  took  in  her  virtue,  but  of  any  of  her 
revelations  they  had  no  communication.  But  at  another  time 
Brother  Williams  came  to  me,  and  told  me  a  long  tale  of  her, 
being  at  the  house  of  a  knight  in  Kent,  that  was  sore  troubled 
with  temptations  to  destroy  himself;  and  none  other  thing  we 
talked  of,  nor  should  have  done  of  likelyhood,  though  we  had 
tarried  together  much  longer,  he  took  so  great  pleasure,  good 
man,  to  tell  the  tale,  with  all  the  circumstances  at  length. 
When  I  came  again  another  day  to  Sion,  on  a  day  in  which 
there  was  a  profession,  some  of  the  fathers  asked  me  how  I 
liked  the  nun.  And  I  answered  that,  in  good  faith,  I  liked  her 
very  well  in  her  talking  ;  '  howbeit,'  quoth  I,  '  she  is  never  the 
nearer  tried  by  that ;  for  I  assure  you,  she  were  likely  to  be 
very  bad,  if  she  seemed  good,  ere  I  should  think  her  other,  till 
she  happened  to  be  proved  naught ' ;  and  in  good  faith,  that  is 
my  manner  indeed,  except  I  were  set  to  search  and  examine  the 
truth  upon  likelihood  of  some  cloaked  evil  ;  for  in  that  case^ 
although  I  nothing  suspected  the  person  myself,  yet  no  less  than 
if  I  suspected  him  sore,  I  would,  as  far  as  my  wit  would  serve 
me,  search  to  find  out  the  truth,  as  yourself  hath  done  very 
prudently  in  this  matter  ;  wherein  you  have  done,  in  my  mind, 
to  your  great  laud  and  praise,  a  very  meritorious  deed,  in 
bringing  forth  to  light  such  detestable  hypocrisy  ;  whereby 
every  other  wretch  may  take  warning,  and  be  feared  to  set  forth 
their  own  devilish,  dissembled  falsehood,  under  the  manner 
and  colour  of  the  wonderful  work  of  God  ;  for  verily,  this 
woman  so  handled  herself,   with  help  of  that  evil  spirit  hath 


inspired  her,  that  after  her  own  confession  declared  at 
Paul's  Cross,*  Avhen  I  sent  word  by  my  servant  unto  the 
Prior  of  the  Charterhouse,  that  she  was  undoubtedly  proved  a 
false,  deceiving  hypocrite,  the  good  man  had  had  so  good 
opinion  of  her  so]long,  that  he  could  at  the  first  scantly  believe 
me  therein.  Howbeit  it  was  not  he  alone  that  thought  her  so 
very  good,  l)ut  many  another  right  good  man  besides,  as  little 
marvel  was  upon  so  good  report,  till  she  was  proved  naught. 

"  I  remember  me  further,  that  in  communication  between 
Father  Rich  and  me,  I  counselled  him,  that  in  such  strange 
things  as  concerned  such  folk  as  had  come  unto  her,  to  whom, 
as  she  said,  she  had  told  the  causes  of  their  coming  ere 
themselves  spake  thereof,  and  such  good  fruit  as  they  said  that 
many  men  had  received  by  her  prayer,  he  and  such  other  so 
reported  it,  and  thought  that  the  knowledge  thereof  should  much 
pertain  to  the  glory  of  God,  should  first  cause  the  things  to  be 
well  and  sure  examined  by  the  ordinaries,  and  such  as  had 
authority  thereunto  ;  so  that  it  might  be  surely  known  whether 
the  things  were  true  or  not,  and  that  there  were  no  letters 
intermingled  among  them,  or  else  the  letters  might  after  hap 
to  aweigh  the  credence  of  these  things  that  were  true.  And 
when  he  told  me  the  tale  of  Mary  Magdalen,  I  said  unto  him  : 
'  Father  Rich,  that  she  is  a  good,  virtuous  woman,  in  good  faith, 
I  hear  so  many  good  folk  so  report,  that  I  verily  think  it  true ; 
and  think  it  well-likely  that  God  worketh  some  good  and  great 
things  by  her ;  but  yet  are,  you  wot  well,  these  strange  tales  no 
part  of  our  creed  ;  and,  therefore,  before  you  see  them  surely 
proved,  you  shall  have  my  poor  counsel,  not  to  wed  yourself 
so  far  forth  to  the  credence  of  them  as  to  report  them  very 
surely  for  true,  lest  that  if  it  should  hap  that  they  were  after- 
wards proved  false  it  might  minish  your  estimation  in  your 
preaching,  whereof  might  grow  great  loss'.  To  this  he  thanked 
me  for  my  counsel,  but  how  he  used  it  after  that  I  cannot  tell. 

*  On  23rd  November,  1533. 

332  SIR   THOMAS    MORE. 

*'  Thus  have  I,  good  Mr.  Cromwell,  fully  declared  to  you,  as 
far  as  myself  can  call  to  remembrance,  all  that  ever  I  have 
done  or  said  in  this  matter,  wherein  I  am  sure  that  never 
one  of  them  all  shall  tell  you  any  further  thing  of  effect ;  for  if 
any  of  them,  or  any  man  else,  report  of  me,  as  I  trust  verily  no 
man  will,  and  I  wot  well  truly  no  man  can,  any  word  or  deed 
by  me  spoken  or  done,  touching  any  breach  of  my  legal  * 
truth  and  duty  towards  my  most  redoubted  sovereign,  and 
natural  liege  lord,  I  will  come  to  mine  answ^er,  and  make  it 
good  in  such  w^ise  as  becometh  a  poor  true  man  to  do  ;  that 
whosoever  any  such  thing  shall  say,  shall  therein  say  untrue ; 
for  I  neither  have  in  this  matter  done  evil,  nor  said  evil,  nor  so 
much  as  any  evil  thing  thought,  but  only  have  been  glad,  and 
rejoiced  of  them  that  were  reported  for  good  ;  w^hich  condition 
I  shall  nevertheless  keep  towards  all  other  good  folk,  for  the 
false,  cloaked  hyprocisy  of  any  of  these,  no  more  than  I  shall 
esteem  Judas  the  true  apostle,  for  Judas  the  false  traitor.f 

"  But  so  purpose  I  to  bear  myself  in  every  man's  company 
while  I  live,  that  neither  good  man  nor  bad,  neither  monk, 
friar,  nor  nun,  nor  other  man  or  w^oman  in  this  world  shall 
make  me  digress  from  my  truth  and  faith,  either  towards  God 
or  towards  my  natural  prince,  by  the  grace  of  Almighty  God ; 
and  as  you  therein  find  me  true,  so  I  heartily  therein  pray  you 
to  continue  towards  me  your  favour  and  good-will,  as  you  shall 
be  sure  of  my  poor  daily  prayer  ;  for  other  pleasure  can  I  not 
do  you.  And  thus  the  Blessed  Trinity,  both  bodily  and 
ghostly,  long  preserve  and  prosper  you. 

"  I  pray  you  pardon  me,  that  I  write  not  unto  you  of  mine 
own  hand,  for  verily  I  am  compelled  to  forbear  writing  for  a 
while,  by  reason  of  this  disease  of  mine,  whereof  the  chief 
occasion  is  grown,  as  it  is  thought,  by  the  stooping  and  leaning 

*  Is  not  this  a  copyist's  error  for  loyal  or  leal  ? 

t  i.e.,    He  will  not  count  the  apostle    St.  Jude  (Thaddeus)  a  traitor, 
because  Judas  (Iscariot)  was  a  traitor. 

THE    HOLY    MAID    OF    KENT.  T,$$ 

on   my  breast,  that  I   have  used  in  writing.     And   thus,  eft- 
soons,  I  beseech  Our  Lord  long  to  preserve  you."  * 

That  the  letter  written  by  Sir  Thomas  to  the  nun  was  not 
considered  a  sufficient  exculpation  can  only  be  accounted  for 
by  the  supposition  that  it  was  not  taken  as  authentic,  that  he 
was  suspected  not  to  have  really  kept  a  copy  of  his  letter,  but 
to  have  now  invented  this  in  self-defence.  This  is  not  a  sup- 
position merely,  for  it  appears,  from  a  paper  in  the  British 
Museum,  that  inquiries  were  made  as  regards  More's  letter, 
and  the  answer  was  signally  corroborative  of  More's  veracity. 
There  is  neither  name  nor  date  to  this  paper.  I  give  what  re- 
lates to  More  verbatim,  but  not  in  its  uncouth  spelling  :  "  The 
phrase  of  Master  More's  letter  I  have  utterly  (as  God  knoweth) 
forgotten,  for  I  read  it  only  superficially.  In  the  which  I  per- 
ceived at  that  time  no  hurt.  Whereupon  I  counselled  and 
desired  Master  Golde,  also  the  woman,  to  keep  it  safe,  for  the 
discharge  of  the  said  Master  More,  whom  I  conjectured  to  have 
heard,  after  his  departing  from  Sion,  something  considering 
her  being  with  the  king's  Grace,  and  revelations  touching  this 

*  This  letter  is  not  in  Rastell's  collection.  It  was  published  by 
Burnet  in  the  Records  (n.  xxi.)  of  his  second  book.  He  took  it  from  the 
Norfolk  MSS.  of  Gresham  College.  "  This  collection,"  says  Mr. 
Pocock,  "has  been  destroyed."  Of  the  562  MSS.  which  it  contained 
this  letter  formed  part  of  n.  150,  and  is  catalogued  as|g049  in  the  Cata- 
logi.  It  was  probably  not  an  original.  Burnet  has  charged  Rastell  with 
suppressing  this  letter,  because  of  its  condemnation  of  the  Holy  Maid. 
Mr.  Bruce  has  vindicated  the  honesty  of  Rastell  in  an  article  in  the 
Arclutolofj^ia  (vol.  xxx.  p.  149).  From  comparison  with  MSS.  now 
existing,  Mr.  Bruce  is  of  opinion  that  Rastell  printed,  not  from  the 
letters  which  were  sent — to  which  he  had  no  access — but  from  rough 
drafts  that  had  remained  among  Sir  Thomas's  papers.  Of  the  above 
letter  he  had  no  copy.  As  to  the  nun,  she  is  not  placed  among  the 
Church's  heroines.  Catholics  entertained  different  views  of  her  before 
Rastell  published  More's  collected  works,  as  they  do  now.  Blessed 
More's  language  is  strong  in  reprobation  of  her,  so  was  Blessed  Edmund 
Campion's.  Blessed  John  Fisher  abstained  from  pronouncing  any 

334  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

laudable  marriage  (but  the  truth  I  know  not),  whereby  I  sus- 
pected that  he  was  moved  to  write  that  letter.  In  which  he 
gave  her  thanks  for  her  familiar  communication,  desiring  her 
to  be  a  testimonial  that  he  never  moved  nothing  appertaining 
to  our  sovereign  prince  at  his  being  with  her.  Then  also  he 
desired  her  no  otherwise  to  disdain  his  counsel  than  did  Moses, 
who  had  all  the  revelations,  the  counsel  of  Jethro,  whose  coun- 
sel was,  as  I  remember,  to  show  her  revelations  not  to  every 
man,  but  to  the  spiritual  and  godly  persons,  not  to  wordly 
men,  who  receive  (as  the  other  honey  and  wax)  poison  of 
everything.*  After  he  touched  the  Duke  of  Buckingham,  that 
had  much  displeasure  by  consorting  to  a  religious  person  and 
monk  of  Hinton,  t  but  for  what  his  displeasure  ensued  I  remem- 
ber not  there  to  be  expressed,  nor  yet  for  what  extent  he  moved 
that  matter,  nor  yet  how  it  was  ordered  in  his  style,  but  that  he 
annexed  in  the  conclusion  of  his  letter  this  petition  to  be  num- 
bered as  one  most  desirous  of  her  prayers,  and  such  pleasure 
as  he  might  do  it  should  always  be  ready."  The  paper  con- 
cludes with  an  acknowledgment  of  guilt  and  folly,  anda  piteous 
appeal  for  mercy,  among  other  things  in  consideration  of  the 
writer's  youth.  J 

Cromwell,  of  course,  kept  this  document  to  himself,  and 
neither  communicated  it  to  Sir  Thomas  More,  nor  to  the  tri- 
bunal before  which  he  was  to  be  accused.  The  parliament 
that  More  had  opened  in  1529  had  not  yet  been  dissolved,  and 
was  summoned  for  a  new  session  on  15th  January.  On  the 
21st  of  February,  a  bill  of  attainder  was  introduced  in  the 
upper  house  against  all  whom  it  was  sought  to  implicate  with 
the  nun.     Sir  Thomas  heard  (perhaps  without  surprise)  that 

*  It  was  a  common  saying  that  the  bee  sucks  honey  from  the  flower, 
and  the  spider  poison. 

t  "Mount  Grace"  was  first  written  and  cancelled. 

+  Cotton  MSS.  Cleopatra  E.,  vi.  f.  154.  This  paper  seems  to  be 
written  by  one  of  the  friars,  Rich  or  Risby.  From  the  words,  "  your 
goodness,  your  mastership,"  it  is  clearly  addressed  to  Cromwell. 

THE    HOLY    MAID    OF    KENT.  335 

his  name  was  included,  and  he  wrote  the  following  letter  to 
Cromwell  : — 

"  Right  Worshipful, — 

"  After  right  hearty  recommendations,  so  it  is  that  I 
am  informed  that  there  is  a  bill  put  in  against  me  into  the 
higher  house  before  the  lords,  concerning  my  communication 
with  the  nun  of  Canterbury,  and  my  writing  unto  her.  Whereof 
I  not  a  little  marvel,  the  truth  of  the  matter  being  such  as  God 
and  I  know  it  is,  and  as  I  have  plainly  declared  unto  you  by 
my  former  letters,  wherein  I  found  you  then  so  good,  that  I 
am  now  bold  eftsoon  upon  your  goodness  to  desire  you  to  show 
me  the  favour,  that  I  might  the  rather  by  your  good  means 
have  a  copy  of  the  bill. 

"  Which  seen,  if  I  find  any  untrue  surmise  therein,  as  of 
likelihood  there  is,  I  may  make  my  humble  suit  unto  the  king's 
good  Grace,  and  declare  the  truth,  either  to  His  Grace,  or  by  His 
Grace's  commandment,  wheresover  the  matter  shall  require. 
I  am  so  sure  of  my  truth  towards  His  Grace,  that  I  cannot  mis- 
trust His  Grace's  favour  towards  me  upon  the  truth  known,  nor 
the  judgment  of  any  honest  man.  Nor  never  shall  their  loss 
in  this  matter  grieve  me,  being  myself  so  innocent  as  God  and 
I  know  me,  whatever  should  happen  therein  by  the  grace  of 
Almighty  God,  who,  both  bodily  and  ghostly,  preserve  you. 

"  At  Chelsea,  this  present  Saturday, 
''  By  the  hand  of, 

"  Heartily  all  your  own, 

"Tho.  More,  Knight."* 

This  letter  was  soon  followed  by  another  to  the  king,  but  as 
it  is  unusually  verbose  and  contains  no  new  facts,  it  will  he 
enough  to  give  the  substance.  More  reminds  Henry  of  his 
gracious  promise  of  protection  in  case  of  any  suit  that  might 
concern  More's  honour.  For  honour  or  profit  he  cares  noth- 
ing, but  a  charge  is  being  made  that  touches  him  more  deeply, 

*  English  Works,  p.  1423. 

336  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

for  his  allegiance  is  called  in  question.  He  is  perfectly  clear  in 
his  conscience,  but  cannot  endure  the  suspicion  of  ingratitude 
and  baseness.  If  he  should  lose  his  Majesty's  good  opinion 
he  cares  not  about  goods,  liberty  or  life.  These  things  "  could 
never  do  me  pennyworth  of  pleasure ;  but  only  should  my 
comfort  be,  that  after  my  short  life,  and  your  long  (which  with 
continual  prosperity  to  God's  pleasure  Our  Lord  of  His  mercy 
send  you),  I  should  once  meet  Your  Grace  again  in  heaven,  and 
there  be  merry  with  you ;  where,  among  mine  other  pleasures, 
this  should  yet  be  one,  that  Your  Grace  should  surely  see  there 
then,  that,  howsoever  you  take  me,  I  am  your  true  bedesman 
now,  and  ever  have  been,  and  will  be  till  I  die,  howsoever 
your  pleasure  be  to  do  by  me  ".* 

Rastell  gives  this  as  written  "  in  February  or  March,"  the 
draft  from  which  he  printed  bearing  no  date  or  signature.  The 
Cotton  MS.  concludes :  "  At  my  poor  house  of  Chelsith,  the 
fifth  day  of  March,  by  the  known  rude  hand  of  your  most 
humble  and  heavy  faithful  subject  and  bedeman,  Thomas 
More,  Knight". 

The  bill  had  been  read  a  second  time  on  26th  February,  and 
a  third  time  on  6th  March.  The  entry  in  the  Lords'  Journal 
of  that  date  is  as  follows  (in  Latin) :  "  A  bill,  written  on 
paper,  concerning  the  due  punishment  of  Elizabeth  Barton, 
nun  and  hypocrite,  formerly  called  the  Holy  Maid  of  Kent, 
with  her  adherents,  was  thrice  read.  Their  lordships  thereupon 
thought  it  fit  to  find  whether  it  was  according  to  the  king's  will 
that  Sir  Thomas  More,  and  the  others  named  with  him  in  the 
said  bill  (with  the  exception  of  the  Bishop  of  Rochester,  who 
is  laid  up  with  illness,  and  whose  answer  is  already  known  by 
his  letters),  should  be  required  to  appear  before  their  lordships 
in  the  Star  Chamber,  that  it  may  be  heard  what  they  can  say 
for  themselves." 

The  Imperial  Ambassador,  Chapuys,  wrote  to  the  Emperor 

*  English  Works,  p.  1423,  and  in  Ellis.  Orig.  Let.  (ist  ser.)  ii.  47, 
from  Cleop  E.,  vi.  132. 

THE    HOLY    MAID    OF    KENT.  337 

on  7th  March  :  "  More,  the  late  chancellor,  has  been  examined 
by  the  chancellor  [Audley]  and  Cromwell,  for  a  letter  which 
he  wrote  to  the  nun,  which  could  not  have  been  more  prudent, 
as  he  exhorted  her  to  attend  to  devotion  and  not  meddle  in  the 
affairs  of  princes.  As  the  king  did  not  find,  as  it  seems  he 
hoped,  an  occasion  for  doing  him  more  harm,  he  has  taken 
away  his  salary."  * 

His  name  was  indeed  struck  out  of  the  bill  of  attainder ; 
but  I  must  relate  in  a  separate  chapter  how  this  came  about, 
because  the  narrative  will  bring  us  into  a  matter  of  a  very 
different  nature — More's  views  regarding  the  supremacy  of  the 
Holy  See.t 

*  Letters  and  Papers,  vii.  296. 

f  In  More's  English  Works  will  be  found  some  very  interesting  and 
amusing  discussions  on  miracles,  apparitions,  and  revelations.  He 
relates  with  much  wit  some  examples  of  imposture  (see  his  Dialogue, 
English  Works,  p.  134),  but  with  great  earnestness  an  instance  of  what  he 
considered  a  true  diabolical  possession  and  miraculous  deliverance  [lb.,  137). 
False  miracles  and  imposture  he  considers  no  disproof  of  the  existence  of 
true  miracles  and  real  revelations,  but  a  proof  of  the  need  of  careful 
tests:  "I  am  sure  though  ye  see  some  white  sapphire  or  berill  so  well 
counterfeit,  and  so  set  in  a  ring,  that  a  right  good  jeweller  will  take  it  for 
a  diamond,  yet  will  ye  not  doubt,  for  all  that,  but  that  there  be  in  many 
other  rings  already  set  right  diamonds  indeed.  Nor  ye  will  not  mistrust 
St.  Peter  for  Judas." 




ROPER  relates  a  strange,  pathetic   history.      Sir  Thomas 
More,  the  virtuous  and  accompHshed  gentleman,   the 
perfect  statesman,  the  most  loyal  of  subjects,  the  man  who 
had  spent  the  best  years  of  his  life  in  the  single-hearted  service  of 
his  king  and  country — this  man  was  hated  by  his  king  for  his 
very  goodness,   for  his  uprightness  and  honour,  and  the  king 
was  bent  on  his  ruin  unless  he  could  bring  him  to  dishonour. 
Without  a  shred   of  evidence  against   him,   with   the   clearest 
proofs  of  his  loyalty  in  his  hands,  both  in  More's  own  declara- 
tion, in  the  letter  he  had  written  to  the  nun,  and  in  the  testi- 
mony of  Father   Hugh  Rich,   Henry  had   caused   his   former 
friend,  whose  neck  he  had  clasped  so  lovingly  as  they  walked 
in  the  Chelsea  garden,  to  be  attainted  before  those  noblemen  and 
prelates,   over  whose   assembly   he  had  so  lately   presided  as 
chancellor,  on  a  charge  of  misprision  of  treason,  a  crime  in- 
volving confiscation  of  all  property  and  imprisonment  at  the 
king's  pleasure  ;   and  all  this,   says  Roper,    "  presupposing  of 
likelihood  that  this  bill  would  be  to  Sir  Thomas  More  so  troub- 
lous that  it  would  force  him  to  relent  and  condescend  to  his 
request "  (to  approve  his  divorce),   "  wiierein,"  adds  his  son-in- 
law  proudly,   "  His  Grace  was  much  deceived  ". 

Sir  Thomas  had  petitioned  to  be  heard  by  the  lords  ;  the 
lords  also,  who  knew  his  innocence,  had  petitioned  for  leave  to 
hear  him.     A  strange  thing — that  such  a  petition  should  have 


been  necessary  when  men's  honour,  property  and  Hberty  were  at 
stake!  "The  king,"  continues  Roper,  "not  liking  this  proposal, 
assigned  that  he  should  appear  before  four  members  of  his 
Council:  Cranmer,  Archbishop  of  Canterbury;  Audley,  the  Lord 
Chancellor  ;  the  Duke  of  Norfolk,  and  Thomas  Cromwell.  At 
which  time  I,  thinking  I  had  a  good  and  fit  opportunity,  ear- 
nestly advised  him  to  labour  to  those  lords  for  his  discharge 
out  of  the  bill  ;  who  answered  me  that  he  would."  The  in- 
structions, however,  of  these  royal  tools  were  not  to  inquire  into 
truth  and  justice,  but  to  seek  by  promises  and  threats  to  make 
Sir  Thomas  More  one  like  themselves. 

"  At  his  coming  before  them  they  entertained  him  very 
friendly,  willing  him  to  sit  down  with  them,  which  in  no  wise 
he  would.  Then  began  the  lord  chancellor  to  declare  unto 
him  how  many  ways  the  king  had  showed  his  love  and  favour 
towards  him,  how  fain  he  would  have  had  him  continue  in  his 
office,  how  glad  he  would  have  been  to  have  heaped  more 
benefits  upon  him,  and  finally  how  he  could  ask  no  worldly 
honour  nor  profit  at  His  Highness's  hands  that  were  likely  to  be 
denied  him  ;  hoping  by  this  declaration  to  provoke  him  to  re- 
compense His  Grace  with  the  like  again,  and  unto  those  things 
which  the  parliament,  the  bishops,  and  the  universities  had  al- 
ready passed  to  add  his  consent.  To  this  Sir  Thomas  mildly 
made  answer  :  '  No  man  living  is  there,  my  lords,  that  would 
with  better  will  do  the  thing  that  should  be  acceptable  to  the 
king's  Highness.  Howbeit,  I  verily  hoped  I  should  never  have 
heard  of  this  matter  more,  considering  that  I  have  from  time 
to  time  always  from  the  beginning  so  plainly  and  truly  declared 
my  mind  unto  His  Grace;  which  His  Highness  ever  seemed  to 
me,  like  a  most  gracious  prince,  very  well  to  accept,  never 
minding,  as  he  said,  to  molest  me  more  therewith.' 

"  Many  things  more  were  there  of  the  like  sort  uttered  on 
both  sides.  But  in  the  end,  when  they  saw  they  could  by  no 
manner  of  persuasions  remove  him  from  his  former  determina- 
tion, then  began  they  more  terribly  to  touch  him,  telling  him 

340  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

that  the  king's  Highness  had  given  commandment,  if  they  could 
by  no  gentleness  win  him,  in  his  name  with  his  great  ingrati- 
tude to  charge  him — that  never  w-as  there  servant  so  to  his 
sovereign  so  villainous,  nor  subject  to  his  prince  so  traitorous 
as  he.  For  he,  by  subtle,  sinister  slights  most  unnaturally  pro- 
voking the  king  to  set  forth  his  book  on  the  seven  sacraments 
and  maintaining  of  the  Pope's  authority,  had  caused  him,  to 
his  dishonour  throughout  all  Christendom,  to  put  a  sword  in 
the  Pope's  hand  to  fight  against  himself. 

"When  thus  had  they  laid  forth  all  the  terrors  they  could 
imagine  against  him,  '  My  lords,'  quoth  he,  '  these  terrors  be 
arguments  for  children,  and  not  for  me.  But  to  answer  to 
that  wherewith  you  do  chiefly  burden  me,  I  believe  the  king's 
Highness  of  his  honour  will  never  lay  that  to  my  charge,  for 
none  is  there  that  can  in  this  point  say  in  my  excuse  more  than 
His  Highness  himself.  He  right  well  knoweth  that  I  was  never 
procurer  nor  counsellor  of  His  Majesty  thereto ;  but  after  it 
was  finished,  by  His  Grace's  appointment  and  consent  of  the 
makers  of  the  same,  I  was  only  a  sorter  out  and  placer  of  the 
principal  matters  therein  contained.  Wherein,  when  I  found 
the  Pope's  authority  highly  advanced,  and  with  strong  argu- 
ments mightily  defended,  I  said  unto  His  Grace  :  I  must  put 
Your  Highness  in  remembrance  of  one  thing,  and  that  is  this — 
the  Pope,  as  Your  Grace  knoweth,  is  a  prince  as  you  are,  and  in 
league  with  all  other  Christian  princes.  It  may  so  hereafter 
fall  out  that  Your  Grace  and  he  may  vary  upon  some  point  of 
leagues,  whereupon  may  grow  breach  of  amity  and  war  between 
you  both.  I  think  it  best,  therefore,  that  that  place  be  amended 
and  his  authority  more  slenderly  touched.'  '  Nay,'  quoth  His 
Grace,  'that  shall  it  not.  We  are  so  much  bounden  to  the  See 
of  Rome  that  we  cannot  do  too  much  honour  to  it.'  Then  did 
I  farther  put  him  in  remembrance  of  the  statute  of  Premunire, 
whereby  a  good  part  of  the  Pope's  pastoral  cure  here  was  pared 
away.  To  that  answered  His  Highness :  'Whatsoever  impediment 
be  to  the  contrary,  we  will  set  forth  that  authority  to  the  utter- 


most,  for  we  receive  from  that  See  our  crown  imperial ;  which 
I  never  heard  of  before  till  His  Grace  told  it  me  with  his  own 
mouth '. 

"  Thus  displeasantly  departed  they.  Then  took  Sir  Thomas 
his  boat  towards  his  house  at  Chelsea,  wherein  by  the  way  he 
was  very  merry ;  and  for  that  I  was  nothing  sorry,  hoping  that 
he  had  gotten  himself  discharged  out  of  the  parliament  bill. 
When  he  was  landed  and  come  home,  then  walked  we  twain 
alone  in  his  garden  together,  where  I,  desirous  to  know  how 
he  had  sped,  said  :  '  I  trust,  sir,  that  all  is  well  because  you 
are  so  merry?'  *  It  is  so  indeed,  son  Roper,  I  thank  God,' 
quoth  he.  '  Are  you,  then,  put  out  of  the  bill  ? '  quoth  I.  '  By 
my  troth,  son  Roper,'  quoth  he,  'I  never  remembered  it.' 
*  Never  remembered  it  !'  said  I ;  'a  cause  that  toucheth  your- 
self too  near,  and  us  all  for  your  sake.  I  am  sorry  to  hear  it, 
for  I  verily  trusted,  when  I  saw  you  so  merry,  that  all  had 
been  well.'  Then  said  he  :  '  Wilt  thou  know,  son  Roper,  why 
I  was  so  merry  ?  In  good  faith  I  rejoiced  that  I  had  given 
the  devil  a  foul  fall,  and  that  with  those  lords  I  had  gone  so 
far  as,  without  great  shame,  I  could  never  go  back  again.'  At 
which  words  waxed  I  very  sad,  for  though  himself  liked  it 
well,  yet  liked  it  me  but  a  little. 

"Now,  upon  the  report  made  to  the  king  of  all  their  discourse, 
the  king  was  so  highly  offended,  that  he  plainly  told  them  he 
was  fully  determined  that  the  bill  should  proceed  against  him. 
To  whom  the  lord  chancellor  and  the  rest  of  the  lords  said 
tliat  they  perceived  the  lords  of  the  upper  house  so  bent  to 
hear  him  in  his  own  defence,  that  if  he  were  not  put  out  of  the 
bill,  it  would,  without  fail,  be  utterly  an  overthrow  of  all.  But 
for  all  this  needs  would  the  king  have  his  own  will,  or  else  (he 
said)  that  at  the  passing  thereof  he  would  be  personally 
present  himself. 

"  Then  the  Lord  Audley  and  the  rest,  seeing  him  so 
vehemently  set  thereupon,  on  their  knees  most  humbly  be- 
sought  His   Grace  to   forbear,  considering  that   if   he  should 

342  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

in  his  own  presence  receive  an  overthrow,  it  would  not  only 
encourage  his  subjects  ever  after  to  contemn  him,  but  also 
through  all  Christendom  redound  to  his  dishonour  for  ever ; 
adding  that  they  mistrusted  not  in  time  against  him  to  find 
some  meet  matter  to  serve  his  time  better ;  for  in  this  cause 
of  the  nun,  he  was  accounted  (they  said)  so  innocent  and 
clear,  that  for  his  dealing  therein  men  reckoned  him  far 
worthier  of  praise  than  of  reproof,  ^^'hereupon  at  length, 
through  their  earnest  persuasion,  he  was  content  to  condescend 
to  their  petition.  And  on  the  morrow  after,  Mr.  Cromwell 
meeting  me  in  the  parliament  house,*  willed  me  to  tell  my 
father  that  he  was  put  out  of  the  parliament  bill.  But  because 
I  had  appointed  to  dine  that  day  in  London,  I  sent  the 
message  by  my  servant  to  my  wife  to  Chelsea.  Whereof  when 
she  informed  her  father,  '  Meg,'  quoth  he,  '  quod  differtur  non 
aufei'tiu'\  After  this,  as  the  Duke  of  Norfolk  and  Sir  lliomas 
More  chanced  to  fall  in  familiar  talk  together,  the  Duke  said 
unto  him :  '  By  the  Mass,  Mr.  More,  it  is  perilous  striving 
with  princes  ;  therefore,  I  would  wish  you  somewhat  to  incline 
to  the  king's  pleasure  ;  for  by  God's  Body,  Mr.  More,  indig- 
natio  p7'i7icipis  niois  est '.  '  Is  that  all,  my  lord  ?  '  quoth  he  ; 
'  then,  in  good  faith,  between  Your  Grace  and  me  is  but  this, 
that  I  shall  die  to-day  and  you  to-morrow.' " 

Immediately  on  returning  home  from  his  interview  with  the 
Council,^  Sir  Thomas  More  thought  it  best  to  make  a  statement 
in  writing,  to  the  same  effect  as  he  had  spoken,  on  the  three 
points  which  had  been  brought  forward — the  matter  of  the  nun, 
that  of  the  divorce,  and  the  supremacy  of  the  Holy  See.  This 
he  did  in  a  letter  to  Cromwell,  asking  him  to  be  his  spokes- 
man and  advocate  with  the  king. 

He  repeats  in  a  few  words  what  he  had  said  in  a  previous 
letter  with  regard  to  the  faultlessness  of  his  conduct  in  the 
matter  of  the  nun's  revelations.      I  have  given  already  from 

■^  Roper  was  M.P.  for  Canterbury. 

t  The  letter  is  dated  6th  March  in  the  MS.  copy. 


this  letter  his  account  of  the  way  he  had  studied  the  question  of 
the  divorce,  and  the  entirely  neutral  position  he  had  kept.  We 
must  now  hear  his  own  declaration  as  to  the  history  of  his  mind 
on  the  doctrine  of  the  Pope's  su])remacy.  To  secure  his  exact 
words  I  have  transcribed  the  following  from  the  corrected  copy 
which  he  signed  and  sent  to  Cromwell,*  not  from  the  printed 
version  that  was  made  from  the  rough  draft.f .  The  variations, 
however,  are  very  insignificant,  except  in  two  instances  that  will 
be  mentioned  in  the  notes  : — 

"  As  touching  the  third  point,  the  primacy  of  the  Pope,  I 
nothing  meddle  in  the  matter.  Truth  it  is,  that  as  I  told  you 
when  you  desired  me  to  show  you  what  I  thought  therein,:};  I 
was  myself  sometime  not  of  the  mind  that  the  primacy  of  that 
See  §  should  be  begun  by  the  institution  of  God,  until  that  I 
read  in  that  matter  those  things  that  the  king's  Highness  had 
written  in  his  most  famous  book  against  the  heresies  of  Martin 
Luther.  At  the  first  reading  whereof  I  moved  the  king's  High- 
ness either  to  leave  out  that  point  or  else  to  touch  it  more 
slenderly,  for  doubt  of  such  things  as  after  might  hap  to  fall  in 
question  between  His  Highness  and  some  Pope,  as  between 
princes  and  Popes  divers  times  have  done.  Whereunto  His 
Highness  answered  me  that  he  would  in  nowise  anything 
minish  of  that  matter,  of  which  thing  His  Highness  showed  me 
a  secret  cause,  whereof  I  never  had  anything  heard  before. 

"But  surely  after  that  I  had  read  His  Grace's  book  therein, 
and  so  many  other  things  as  I  have  seen  in  that  point  by  this 
continuance  of  this  ten||  years  since  and  more,  I  have  found  in 
effect  the  substance  of  all  the  holy  doctors,  from  St.  Ignatius, 
disciple  to  St.  John  the  Evangelist,  unto  our  own  days,  both 

*  Cleopatra  E.,  vi.  f.  150-152. 
t  English  Works,  p.  1426. 

*  That  is,  in  the  appearance  before  the  Council  the  same  day. 

§  The  words  "  See  apostolique  "  were  first  written,  but  "  aposto  ique 
is  cancelled.      It  occurs,  however,  below. 

II  Rastell's  version  has  seven.     It  is  clearlv  x.  in  the  MS. 

344  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Latins  and  Greeks,  so  consonant  and  agreeing  in  that  point, 
and  the  thing  by  such  General  Councils  so  confirmed  also,  that 
in  good  faith  I  never  neither  read  nor  heard  anything  of  such 
effect  on  the  other  side  that  ever  could  lead  me  to  think  that 
my  conscience  were  well  discharged,  but  rather  in  right  great 
peril,  if  I  should  follow  the  other  side,  and  deny  the  primacy  to 
be  provided  by  God. 

"  Which  if  we  did,  yet  can  I  nothing  (as  I  showed  you)  per- 
ceive any  commodity  that  ever  could  come  by  that  denial.  For 
that  primacy  is  at  the  leastwise  instituted  by  the  corps  of 
Christendom,  and  for  a  great  urgent  cause  in  avoiding  of 
'schisms,  and  corroborate  by  continual  succession  more  than 
the  space  of  a  thousand  years  at  the  least  (for  there  are 
passed  almost  a  thousand  years  since  the  time  of  the  holy  St. 
Gregory).  And,  therefore,  since  all  Christendom  is  one  corps, 
I  cannot  perceive  how  any  member  thereof  may,  without  the 
common  consent  of  the  body,  depart  from  the  common  head. 
And  then  if  we  may  not  lawfully  leave  it  by  ourself,  I  cannot 
perceive,  but  if*  the  thing  were  a  treating  in  a  General  Council, 
what  the  question  could  avail,  whether  the  primacy  were  in- 
stituted immediately  by  God,  or  ordained  by  the  Church. 

"  As  for  the  General  Councils  assembled  lawfully,  I  never 
could  perceive,  but  that  in  the  declaration  of  the  truths,  to  be 
believed  and  to  be  standen  to,  the  authority  thereof  ought  to 
be  taken  for  undoubtable.f  Or  else  were  there  in  nothing  no 
certainty,  but  through  Christendom  upon  every  man's  affection- 
ate reason  all  things  might  be  brought  from  day  to  day  to  con- 
tinual ruffle  and  confusion.  From  which  by  the  General 
Councils,  the  Spirit  of  God,  assisting  every  such  Council  well 
assembled,  keepeth,  and  ever  shall  keep,  the  corps  of  His 
Catholic  Church. 

*  "  But  if,"  i.e.,  except  in  the  case  that. 

+  Rastell  has  :  "  In  the  declaration  of  the  truth,  it  is  to  be  believed 
and  to  be  standen  to,  the  authority  whereof  ought  to  be  taken  for  un- 
doubtable  ". 


"  And  verily,  since  the  king's  Highness  hath  (as  by  the  book 
of  his  honourable  Council  appeareth),  appealed  to  the  General 
Council  from  the  Pope,  in  which  Council  I  beseech  Our  Lord 
send  His  Grace  comfortable  speed,  methinketh  in  my  poor  mind 
it  could  be  no  furtherance  there  unto  His  Grace's  cause  if  His 
Highness  should  in  his  own  realm  before,  either  by  laws  mak- 
ing, or  books  putting  forth,  seem  to  derogate  and  deny,  not 
only  the  primacy  of  the  See  Apostolic,  but  also  the  authority 
of  the  General  Councils  too.  Which  I  verily  trust  His  Highness 
intendeth  not. 

''  For  in  the  next  General  Council  it  may  well  happen,  that 
this  Pope  may  be  deposed  and  another  substituted  in  his  room, 
with  whom  the  king's  Highness  may  be  very  well  content.  For 
albeit  that  I  have  for  my  own  part  such  opinion  of  the  Pope's 
primacy  *  as  I  have  showed  you,  yet  never  thought  I  the  Pope 
above  the  General  Council,  nor  never  have  I  in  any  book  of 
mine,  put  forth  among  the  king's  subjects  in  our  vulgar  tongue, 
advanced  greatly  the  Pope's  authority .f  For  albeit  that  a  man 
may  peradventure  so  find  therein  that,  after  the  common 
manner  of  all  Christian  realms,  I  speak  of  him  as  primate,  yet 
never  do  I  stick  thereon  with  reasoning  and  proving  of  that 
point.  And  in  my  book  against  the  Masker  I  wrote  not,  I 
wot  well,  five  lines, :|;  and  yet  of  no  more  but  only  St.  Peter  him- 
self, from  whose  person  many  take  not  §  the  primacy,  even  of 
those  that  grant  it  none  of  his  successors.  And  yet  was  that 
book  made,  printed,  and  put  forth  of  very  truth  before  that  any 
of  the  books  of  the  Council  ||  was  either  printed  or  spoken 
of.  But  whereas  I  had  written  thereof  at  length  in  my  con- 
futation before,  and  for  the  proof  thereof  had  compiled  together 
all  that  I  could  find  therefor,  at  such  time  as  I  little  looked 
that  there  should  fall  between  the  king's  Highness  and  the  Pope 

*  Rastell  has  "supremacy". 

t  He  had  done  this  in  his  Latin  work,  as  we  have  seen. 
^  Rastell  has  "  times".  §  i.e.,  take  not  away. 

I|  i.e.,  tne  King's  Council. 

346  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

such  a  breach  as  is  fallen  since ;  when  I  after  that  saw  the 
thing  likely  to  draw  towards  such  displeasure  between  them  I 
suppressed  it  utterly,  and  never  put  word  thereof  in  my  book, 
but  put  out  the  remnant  without  it."  * 

There  are  two  points  in  this  profession  of  faith  that  seem  to 
require  elucidation.  How  could  a  highly  educated  Catholic 
man  hold,  as  More  confesses  that  he  did  for  a  time,  that  the 
supremacy  of  the  Roman  Pontiff  was  only  of  ecclesiastical 
institution  ?  I  should  reply  that  his  error,  being  at  that  time 
purely  theoretical,  can  be  easily  conceived  to  have  existed  quite 
innocently  in  such  a  man.  He  had  made  no  special  study  of 
theology  in  his  youth,  and  there  was  nothing  before  the  rise  of 
Luther's  heresy  to  call  his  special  attention  to  the  subject  of 
the  nature  and  origin  of  the  Pope's  primacy.  He  was  not 
living  in  schism,  and  seeking  to  justify  his  position,  but  in 
loyal  obedience  to  the  Holy  See,  certain  of  the  duty  of 
obedience,  and  for  that  reason  not  careful  to  examine  the  origin 
of  the  authority  whose  claim  he  in  no  way  contested.  Of 
course  it  should  be  known  to  every  Catholic  man  that  the  Pope 
is  the  divinely  appointed  successor  of  St.  Peter.  But  the 
great  schism  and  the  action  of  the  Councils  of  Constance  and 
Basle,  and  the  theories  to  which  that  action  had  given  rise,  had 
much  disturbed  and  confused  men's  minds.  A  new  but  neces- 
sarily imperfect  knowledge  of  early  Church  history,  and  of  the 
writings  of  the  Fathers,  had  made  students  acquainted  with 
difficulties  for  which  they  found  no  solutions.  Erasmus  had 
put  out  historical  doubts  on  this  as  on  many  other  subjects  ; 
and  his  writings  or  conversations  had  probably  much  influence 
with  More.t 

*  Cleopatra  E.,  f.  150;  also  English  Works,  p.  1426. 

+  De  monarchia  Pontificis  nunquam  dubitavi,  sed  an  hrec  monarchia 
fuerit  agnita  tempore  Hieronymi  aut  exserta,  dubito  alicubi.  Sed  ut 
alicubi  noto  quod  videtur  facere  ad  banc  opinionem,  ita  rursus  aliis  locis 
annoto  qua^  faciunt  ad  diversam  opinionem.  Et  tot  aliis  locis  voco 
Petrum  principem  apostolici  ordinis,  pontificem  Romanum  vicarium 
Christi  et  Ecclesia  principem  (Erasmus,  Ep.  667). 


But  I  should  conjecture  that  the  main  source  of  his  error  was 
his  intimate  famiHarity  with  l^unstall.  More  held  his  friend's 
learning,  as  well  as  his  virtue,  in  the  highest  esteem.  Now 
Tunstall  declares,  in  his  answer  to  Pole's  treatise  on  ecclesiasdcal 
unity,  that  his  opinions  on  the  Holy  See  were,  and  ever  had 
been,  not  such  as  we  call  (lallican,  but  like  those  of  modern 
Anglicans.  It  will  not  be  a  digression  to  give  a  specimen  of 
Tunstall's  language,  since  what  he  wrote  to  Pole  in  1536  he 
must  have  often  said  to  More,  during  their  long  intimacy.  He 
declares  that  the  king,  in  making  himself  head  of  the  Anglican 
Church,  was  desiious  "  to  reduce  his  Church  of  England  out  of 
all  captivity  of  foreign  ])owers,  heretofore  usurped  therein,  into 
the  pristine  estate  that  all  Churches  of  all  realms  were  in  at  the 
beginning,  and  to  abolish  and  clearly  put  away  such  usurpation 
as  theretofore  in  this  realm  the  Bishops  of  Rome  have,  to  their 
great  advantage  and  impoverishing  of  the  realm  and  the  king's 
subjects,  of  the  same.  .  .  .  Would  to  God  you  had  been 
exercised  in  reading  the  ancient  councils,  that  you  might  have 
known  from  the  beginning,  from  age  to  age,  the  continuance 
and  progress  of  the  Catholic  Church,  by  which  you  should 
have  perceived  that  the  Church  of  Rome  had  never  of  old  such 
a  monarchy  as  of  late  it  hath  usurped."*  In  a  dignified  answer 
Pole  reminds  Tunstall  that  men,  learned  and  holy  as  Fisher  and 
More,  held  the  contrary,  and  were  so  thoroughly  convinced 
of  the  Divine  institution  of  the  primacy  of  tlie  Holy  See,  that 
they  had  shed  their  blood  for  it. 

When,  in  1520,  More's  attention  was  called  to  this  matter, 
he  must  at  first  have  been  perplexed  between  Fisher  and 
Tunstall  ;  but  when  he  gave  himself  to  earnest  study  he  soon 
came  to  share  the  conviction  and  faith  of  Fisher,  and  he  tells 
Cromwell  that  more  than  ten  years'  continual  study  had  in  no 

*  MS.  in  British  Museum,  Cleopatra  E.,  vi.  f.  389.  I  am  not  aware 
whether  this  letter  is  anyw  here  printed.  Pole's  answer  to  it  is  in  Strypc 
Mi  in.,  i.  pt.  ii,  n.  S3,  p.  306. 

348  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

wise  altered  his  mind,  so  that  it  was  not  a  matter  of  opinion 
but  of  conscience. 

What  More  adds  about  the  possibility  of  a  General  Council 
deposing  the  Pope  is  somewhat  male  sonans^  but  it  must  be 
remembered  that  More  is  taking  the  king  at  his  own  word  ;  he 
had  not  only  appealed  to  a  future  General  Council  against  the 
Pope,  but  he  accused  the  Pope  himself  of  being  a  usurper  of  the 
Apostolic  See  by  simony,  and  (in  any  case)  of  having  forfeited  it 
by  heresy.  More,  therefore,  knowing  full  well  that  Henry  wished 
for  nothing  less  than  the  meeting  of  a  General  Council,  wished 
His  Majesty  good  speed.  It  would  be  rash  to  quote  More  as 
holding  that  a  Council  may  depose  a  Pope  for  evil  and  scan- 
dalous life,  as  some  have  held.  More  refers  only  to  the  two 
things  mentioned  by  Henry,  viz.,  simony  and  heresy.  Now,  it 
is  admitted  by  all  that  simony  invalidates  a  Pope's  election. 
Could  it  be  proved  against  him,  he  would  not,  strictly  speaking, 
be  deposed,  but  he  would  be  declared  never  to  have  been 
Pope.*  Again,  if  manifest  and  obstinate  heresy  were  proved 
against  a  Pope,  a  Council  might  declare  his  See  vacant,  since  he 
would  be  deposed  by  the  invisible  Head  of  the  Church,  the 
everlasting  Truth. t 

In  these  cases  only  is  a  Council  above  the  Pope,  according  to 
the  highest  "  ultramontane  "  doctrine,  nor  would  it  be  just  to 
cite  our  great  chancellor  for  more  than  this.  His  words  were 
all  weighed  in  a  learned  balance.  It  was  not  many  days  after 
this  declaration  that  More  had  to  prove,  by  loss  of  bodily 
liberty,  the  freedom  of  his  soul  and  his  steadfast  allegiance  to 

*  His  acts,  however,  would  have  been  valid  ex  titnlo   colorato  (see 
Fraiiselin,  De  Ecclcsia.     Boiiix,  De  Pupa,  vol.  iii.). 

t  The  case  has  never  occurred,  and  manv  hold  that  it  cannot  occur. 



ALL  attempts  to  entangle  More  in  the  meshes  of  the  law 
for  his  own  actions  had  entirely  failed.  He  had  proved 
his  innocence  in  every  point.  His  ruin  was  lo  be  ac- 
complished by  the  course  of  public  events  in  which  he  had 
had  no  share.  The  day  that  he  had  foretold,  and  for  which  he 
was  preparing  himself,  soon  came,  when  Henry's  divorce  and 
marriage  with  Anne  Boleyn,  as  well  as  the  succession  to  the 
crown  in  her  offspring,  were  to  be  confirmed  by  oaths.  A  bill 
limiting  the  succession,  making  it  high  treason  to  oppose  it,  and 
misprision  of  treason  to  speak  against  it,  was  passed  in  parlia- 
ment and  received  the  royal  assent  on  30th  March,  1534.  It 
enacted  "that  all  the  nobles  of  the  realm,  spiritual  and  temporal, 
and  all  other  subjects  arrived  at  full  age,  should  be  obliged  to 
take  corporal  oath,  in  the  presence  of  the  king  or  his  com- 
missioners, to  observe  and  maintain  the  whole  effect  and  con- 
tents of  the  Act  ".  The  penalties  of  refusal  were  those  of 
misprision  of  treason.  Parliament,  however,  omitted  to 
prescribe  a  formula.  That  which  was  drawn  up  by  the  com- 
missioners was  wider  than  the  scope  of  the  Act,  and  included 
an  affirmation  of  the  truth  of  its  preamble,  declaring  the 
invalidity  of  Henry's  first  marriage  and  the  validity  of  the 
second.  As  the  Sovereign  Pontiff  had,  on  23rd  March,  1534, 
given  his  final  decision  in  favour  of  the  marriage  with  Katharine 
of  Aragon,  such  an  oath  implied  the  rejection  of  his  authority. 
At  the  same  time  the  formula  recalled  and  repudiated  any  oath 

350  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

taken  "  to  any  foreign  authority,  prince,  or  potentate  ".  Tliis, 
for  the  clergy,  was  a  violation  and  renunciation  of  their  oath  of 
fidelity  and  obedience  to  the  Pope.  By  an  evident  abuse  of 
this  Act  of  parliament  an  oath  was  administered  to  all  the  clergy 
throughout  the  realm,  expressing  total  rejection  of  any  authority 
of  the  Bishop  of  Rome  in  England.  For  the  laity  the  form 
chosen  dwelt  rather  on  the  succession  to  the  crown. 

The  members  of  the  two  houses  took  the  oath  in  presence  of 
the  king  before  the  prorogation  of  parliament  on  the  30th 
March.  What  formula  was  used  on  that  occasion  we  do  not 
know.  That  which  appears  in  the  Lords'  Journal,  and  to 
which  reference  has  just  been  made  as  having  been  drawn  up 
by  the  commissioners,  did  not  receive  parliamentary  sanction 
until  the  next  session,  towards  the  close  of  the  year,  though 
that  sanction  declared  it  valid  in  the  past. 

Sir  Thomas  now  took  a  singular  way  of  preparing  his  family 
for  the  catastrophe,  if  we  may  believe  Cresacre.  This  was  to 
give  them  some  false  alarms.  He  hired  an  official  to  come 
suddenly  to  his  house,  as  if  w^ith  a  summons,  so  as  to  startle  all 
the  inmates,  and  thus  give  him  an  opportunity  to  speak  on  the 
subject  of  detachment  and  martyrdom.  On  28th  March  John 
Graaynfyld,  an  official  of  the  Court  of  Chancery,  wrote  to 
Lord  Lisle  :  "  My  old  master.  Sir  Thomas  More,  is  clearly 
discharged  of  his  trouble  ".*  Sir  Thomas  knew  that  he  w-as 
only  at  the  beginning  of  his  troubles. 

On  Low^  Sunday,  which,  in  1534,  fell  on  12th  April,  More 
went  into  London  with  his  son-in-law,  Roper,  to  hear  the 
sermon  at  St.  Paul's,  and  afterwards  went  to  the  house  of  John 
Clements.  His  presence  had  been  remarked,  and  the  official, 
following  him  to  Clements'  house,  served  him  with  a  citation 
to  appear  next  morning  before  the  royal  commissioners  at 
Lambeth,  to  take  the  new  oath.f     What  follows  must  be  told 

*  Letters  and  Papers,  vii.  384. 

t  This  circumstance  is  not  noted  by  Roper,  but  by  Stapleton  (cap.  15), 
who  no  doubt  learnt  it  from  Mrs.  Clements.  There  is  a  misprint  of 
Dom.  in  palwis  for  in  alhis. 

REFUSAL    OF    THE    OATH.  35 1 

in  the  very  words  of  Roper,  the  eye-witness :  "  Then  Sir 
Thomas  More,  as  his  accustomed  manner  always  was  ere  he 
entered  into  any  matter  of  importance  (as  when  he  was  first 
chosen  of  the  Privy  Council,  when  he  was  sent  ambassador, 
appointed  speaker  of  the  parliament-house,  made  lord  chan- 
cellor, or  when  he  took  any  other  like  weighty  matter  upon 
him),  to  go  to  Church  to  be  confessed,*  to  hear  Mass,  and  to 
be  houseled ;  so  did  he  likewise  in  the  morning  early  the  self- 
same day  that  he  was  summoned  to  appear  before  the  lords  at 
Lambeth".  This  was  Monday,  13th  April.  The  com- 
missioners were:  Cranmer,  Archbishop  of  Canterbury  ;  Audley, 
lord  chancellor  ;  Cromwell,  secretary  of  state  ;  to  whom  was 
added  the  Abbot  of  Westminster. 

Roper  continues:  "And  whereas  he  evermore  used  before, 
at  his  departure  from  his  wife  and  children,  whom  he  tenderly 
loved,  to  have  them  bring  him  to  his  boat,  and  there  to  kiss 
them,  and  bid  them  all  farewell,  then  would  he  suffer  none  of 
them  forth  the  gate  to  follow  him,  but  pulled  the  wicket  after 
him  and  shut  them  all  from  him  ;  and  with  a  heavy  heart,  as  by 
his  countenance  it  appeared,  with  me  and  our  four  servants 
took  boat  towards  Lambeth.  Wherein  sitting  still  sadly  a  while, 
at  the  last  he  suddenly  rounded  me  in  the  ear  and  said  :  '  Son 
Roper,  I  thank  Our  Lord  the  field  is  won  '.  What  he  meant 
thereby  I  then  wist  not,  yet,  loth  to  seem  ignorant,  I  answered  : 
*  Sir,  I  am  therefor  very  glad  '.  But,  as  I  conjectured  after- 
ward, it  was  for  that  the  love  he  had  to  God  wrought  in  him  so 
effectually  that  he  conquered  all  his  carnal  affection  utterly." 

I  may  here  supplement  Roper's  narrative  from  the  beautiful 
treatise  composed  by  Sir  Thomas  in  the  Tower  on  Our  Lord's 
Agony  in  the  Garden.  In  it  will  be  found  the  true  explanation 
of  his  own  conduct  throughout  his  trials  and  martyrdom,  because 
he  had  ever  this  model  before  his  eyes.     Thus,  of  the  interior 

*  The  old  English  phrase  "  to  be  confessed  "  (where  we  say  "  to  con- 
fess ")  indicates  the  sacramental  character  of  the  act,  and  its  passive 
nature  as  regards  absolution. 

352  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

conflict  he  endured  in  parting  with  his  family  and  his  liberty,  after 
mentioning  that  some  of  the  martyrs  of  their  own  accord  gladly 
went  to  meet  persecution,  he  writes  :  "  But  yet  God  of  His  in- 
finite mercy  doth  not  require  us  to  take  upon  us  this  most  high 
degree  of  stout  courage,  which  is  so  full  of  hardness  and  diffi- 
culty. And  therefore  I  would  not  advise  every  man  at  adven- 
ture rashly  to  run  forth  so  far  forward  that  he  shall  not  be  able 
fair  and  softly  to  come  back  again,  but  unless  he  can  attain  to 
climb  up  to  the  hill-top,  be  haply  in  hazard  to  tumble  down 
even  to  the  bottom  headlong.  Let  them  yet  whom  God  especi- 
ally calleth  thereunto  set  forth  in  God's  name  and  proceed,  and 
they  shall  reign.  But  yet  before  a  man  falleth  in  trouble,  fear 
is  not  greatly  to  be  discommended,  and  so  that  reason  be  al- 
ways ready  to  resist  and  master  fear,  the  conflict  is  then  no  sin 
nor  offence  at  all,  but  rather  a  great  matter  of  merit.  .  .  .  Unto 
one  that  were  likely  to  be  in  such  a  case,  Christ  saith  :  '  Pluck 
up  thy  courage,  faint  heart ;  what  though  thou  be  fearful, 
sorry  and  weary,  and  standest  in  great  dread  of  most  painful 
torments,  be  of  good  comfort  ;  for  I  Myself  have  vanquished 
the  whole  world,  and  yet  felt  I  far  more  fear,  sorrow,  weariness, 
and  much  more  inward  anguish  too,  when  I  considered  My 
most  bitter,  painful  Passion  to  press  so  fast  upon  Me.  He  that 
is  strong-hearted  may  find  a  thousand  glorious  valiant  martyrs 
whose  ensample  he  may  right  joyously  follow.  But  thou  now, 
O  timorous  and  weak,  silly  sheep,  think  it  sufficient  for  thee 
only  to  walk  after  Me,  which  am  thy  Shepherd  and  Governor, 
and  to  mistrust  thyself  and  put  thy  trust  in  Me.  Take  hold  of 
the  hem  of  My  garment,  therefore  ;  from  thence  shall  thou  per- 
ceive strength  and  relief  to  proceed.'  "  * 

Sir  Thomas  will  now  himself  tell  us  what  happened  to  him 
at  Lambeth.  It  was  a  great  crisis  in  English  history,  the  first 
overt  and  total  renunciation  of  the  authority  of  the  Sovereign 
Pontiff  and  separation  from  the  rest  of  Christendom  ;  for  such 
in  reality  and  in  effect  it  was,  though  few  realised  at  the  time 
*  English  Works,  p.  1357. 

REFUSAL    OF    THE    OATH.  353 

the  full  significance  of  their  act.  A  letter  to  his  daughter  Mar- 
garet, written  a  few  days  later,  has  been  preserved  :  "  When  I 
was  before  the  lords  at  Lambeth  I  was  the  first  that  was  called 
in,  albeit  that  Master  Dr.  the  Vicar  of  Croydon  was  come  be- 
fore me  and  divers  others.  After  the  cause  of  my  sending  for 
declared  unto  me  (whereof  I  somewhat  marvelled  in  my  mind, 
considering  that  they  sent  for  no  temporal  men  but  me),  I  de- 
sired the  sight  of  the  oath,  which  they  showed  me  under  the 
great  seal.  Then  desired  I  the  sight  of  the  Act  of  Succession, 
which  was  delivered  me  in  a  printed  roll.  After  which  read 
secretly  by  myself,  and  the  oath  considered  with  the  Act,  I 
answered  unto  them  that  my  purpose  was  not  to  put  any  fault 
either  in  the  Act  or  any  man  that  made  it,  or  in  the  oath  or 
any  man  that  sware  it,  nor  to  condemn  the  conscience  of  any 
other  man  :  but  as  for  myself,  in  good  faith  my  conscience  so 
moved  me  in  the  matter,  that  though  I  would  not  deny  to 
swear  to  the  succession,  yet  unto  that  oath  that  there  was 
offered  me  I  could  not  swear  without  the  jeoparding  of  my 
soul  to  perpetual  damnation.  And  that  if  they  doubted  whether 
I  did  refuse  the  oath  only  for  the  grudge  of  my  conscience  or 
for  any  fantasy,  I  was  ready  therein  to  satisfy  them  by  my  oath 
which  if  they  trusted  not,  what  should  they  be  the  better  to 
give  me  any  oath  ?  And  if  they  trusted  that  I  would  therein 
swear  true,  then  trusted  I  that  of  their  goodness  they  would  not 
move  me  to  swear  the  oath  that  they  offered  me,  perceiving 
that  for  to  swear  it  was  against  my  conscience. 

"  Unto  this  my  lord  chancellor  said,  that  they  all  were  very 
sorry  to  hear  me  say  this,  and  see  me  thus  refuse  the  oath. 
And  they  said  all,  that  on  their  faith  I  was  the  very  first  that 
ever  refused  it,  which  would  cause  the  king's  Highness  to  con- 
ceive great  suspicion  of  me  and  great  indignation  towards  me. 
And  therewith  they  showed  me  the  roll  and  let  me  see  the 
names  of  the  lords  and  the  commons  which  had  sworn  and 
subscribed  their  names  already.  Which  notwithstanding,  when 
they  saw  that  I  refused  to  swear  the  same  myself,  not  blaming 


354  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

any  other  man  that  had  sworn,  I  was  in  conclusion  commanded 
to  go  down  into  the  garden.  And  thereupon  I  tarried  in  the 
old  burned  chamber  that  looketh  into  the  garden,  and  would 
not  go  down  because  of  the  heat. 

"  In  that  time  I  saw  Master  Dr.  Latimer  come  into  the 
garden,  and  there  walked  he  with  divers  other  doctors  and 
chaplains  of  my  lord  of  Canterbury.  And  very  merry  I  saw 
him,  for  he  laughed  and  took  one  or  twain  about  the  neck  so 
handsomely,  that  if  they  had  been  women  I  would  have  weened 
he  had  been  waxen  wanton.  After  that  came  Master  Dr.  ^^'il- 
son*  forth  from  the  lords,  and  was  with  two  gentlemen 
brought  by  me,  and  gentlemanly  sent  straight  unto  the  Tower. 
What  time  my  Lord  of  Rochester  +  was  called  in  before  them, 
that  can  I  not  tell.  But  at  night  I  heard  that  he  had  been 
before  them,  but  where  he  remained  that  night,  and  so  forth 
till  he  was  sent  hither,  I  never  heard.  J  I  heard  also  that 
Master  Vicar  of  Croydon  and  all  the  remnant  of  the  priests  of 
London  that  were  sent  for,  were  sworn ;  and  that  they  had 
such  favour  at  the  Council's  hand,  that  they  were  not  lingered 
or  made  to  dance  any  long  attendance  to  their  travail  and  cost, 
as  suitors  were  sometimes  wont  to  be,  but  were  sped  apace  to 
their  great  comfort ;  so  far  forth  that  Master  Vicar  of  Croydon, 
either  for  gladness  or  for  dryness,  or  else  that  it  might  be  seen, 
Quod  tile  notus  erat  p07itifici^  went  to  my  lord's  buttery  bar 
and  called  for  drink,  and  drank  valde  familiar  iter. 

"When  they  had  played  their  pageant  and  were  gone  out  of 
the  place,  then  was  I  called  in  again.  And  then  was  it  declared 
unto  me,  what  a  number  had  sworn  ever  since  I  went  aside, 
gladly  without  any  sticking.  Wherein  I  laid  no  blame  in  no 
man,  but  for  mine  own  self  answered  as  before.  Now,  as  well 
before  as  then,  they  somewhat  laid  unto  me  for  obstinacy,  that 
whereas  before,  since  I  refused  to  swear,  I  would  not  declare  any 

*  Dr.  Wilson  had  been  royal  chaplain. 

t  Blessed  John  Fisher. 

X  He  was  kept  at  Lambeth  in  the  custody  of  Archbishop  Cranmer. 

REFUSAL    OF    THE    OATH.  355 

special  part  of  that  oath  that  grudged  my  conscience,  and  open 
the  cause  wherefore.  For  thereunto  I  had  said  unto  them,  that 
I  feared  lest  the  king's  Highness  would,  as  they  said,  take  dis- 
pleasure enough  towards  me  for  the  only  refusal  of  the  oath. 
And  that  if  I  should  open  and  disclose  the  causes  why,  I  should 
therewith  but  further  exasperate  His  Highness,  which  I  would  in 
nowise  do,  but  ratlier  would  I  abide  all  the  danger  and  harm 
that  might  come  towards  me,  than  give  His  Highness  any  occa- 
sion of  further  displeasure,  than  the  offering  of  the  oath  unto 
me  of  pure  necessity  constrained  me. 

"  Howbeit,  when  they  divers  times  imputed  this  to  me  for 
stubbornness  and  obstinacy,  that  I  would  neither  swear  the 
oath,  nor  yet  declare  the  causes  why,  I  declined  thus  far  towards 
them,  that  rather  than  I  would  be  accounted  for  obstinate,  I 
would  upon  the  king's  license,  or  rather  his  such  commandment 
had,  as  might  be  my  sufficient  warrant,  that  my  declaration 
should  not  offend  His  Highness  nor  put  me  in  the  danger  of  any 
of  his  statutes,  I  would  be  content  to  declare  the  causes  in  writ- 
ing, and  (over  that)  to  give  an  oath  in  the  beginning,  that  if  I 
might  find  those  causes  by  any  man  in  suchwise  answered,  as  I 
might  think  mine  own  conscience  satisfied,  I  would  after  that 
with  all  my  heart  swear  the  principal  oath  too.  To  this  I  was 
answered,  that  though  the  king  would  give  me  license  under 
his  letters  patent,  yet  would  it  not  serve  me  against  the  statute. 
AVhereto  I  said,  that  yet  if  I  had  them,  I  would  stand  unto  the 
trust  of  his  honour  at  my  peril  for  the  remnant.  But  yet 
thinketh  me,*  lo  I  that  if  I  may  not  declare  the  causes  without 
peril,  then  to  leave  them  undeclared  is  no  obstinacy. 

"  My  lord  of  Canterbury  taking  hold  upon  that  that  I  said, 
that  I  condemned  not  the  consciences  of  them  that  swear,  said 
unto  me,  that  it  appeared  well,  that  I  did  not  take  it  for  a  very 
sure  thing  and  a  certain,  that  I  might  not  lawfully  swear  it,  but 
rather  as  a  thing  uncertain  and  doubtful.  '  But  then,'  said  my 
lord,  'you  know  for  a  certainty,andathing  without  doubt,  that  you 

*  It  seems  to  me. 

356  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

be  bound  to  obey  your  sovereign  lord  your  king.  And  therefore 
are  you  bound  to  leave  off  the  doubt  of  your  unsure  conscience 
in  refusing  the  oath,  and  take  the  sure  way  in  obeying  of  your 
prince,  and  swear  it.'  Now  all  was  it  so,  that  in  mine  own  mind 
methought  myself  not  concluded,*  yet  this  argument  seemed  me 
suddenly  so  subtle,  and  namely  with  such  authority  coming  out 
of  so  noble  a  prelate's  mouth,  that  I  could  again  answer  nothing 
thereto,  but  only  that  I  thought  myself  I  might  not  well  do  so, 
because  that  in  my  conscience  this  was  one  of  the  cases  in 
which  I  was  bounden  that  I  should  not  obey  my  prince,  since 
that  (whatsoever  other  folk  thought  in  the  matter,  whose 
conscience  or  learning  I  would  not  condemn  nor  take  upon  me 
to  judge),  yet  to  my  conscience  the  truth  seemed  on  the  other 
side.  Wherein  I  had  not  informed  my  conscience  neither  sud- 
denly nor  slightly,  but  by  long  leisure  and  diligent  search  for 
the  matter.  And  of  truth,  if  that  reason  may  conclude,  then 
have  we  a  ready  way  to  avoid  all  perplexities  ;  for  in  whatsoever 
matter  the  doctors  stand  in  great  doubt,  the  king's  command- 
ment, given  upon  whether  side  he  list,  solveth  all  the  doubts. 

"  Then  said  my  lord  of  Westminster  to  me,  that  howsoever 
the  matter  seemed  unto  mine  own  mind,  I  had  cause  to  fear 
that  mine  own  mind  was  erroneous,  when  I  see  the  great 
Council  of  the  realm  determine  of  my  mind  the  contrary,  and 
that  therefore  I  ought  to  change  my  conscience.  To  that  I 
answered  that  if  there  were  no  more  but  myself  upon  my  side, 
and  the  whole  parliament  upon  the  other,  I  would  be  sore 
afraid  to  lean  to  mine  own  mind  only  against  so  many.  But, 
on  the  other  side,  if  it  so  be  that  in  some  things  for  which  I 
refuse  the  oath,  I  have  (as  I  think  I  have)  upon  my  part  as 
great  a  council  and  a  greater  too,  I  am  not  then  bounden  to 
change  my  conscience  and  conform  it  to  the  Council  of  one 
realm  against  the  general  council  of  Christendom. 

"Upon  this  Master  Secretary,!  as  he  that  tenderly  favoureth 

■*  Although  it  seemed  to  me  that  this  reasoning  was  not  conclusive, 
t  Thomas  Cromwell. 

REFUSAL    OF    THE    OATH.  357 

me,  said  and  sware  a  great  oath,  that  he  had  lever  that  his  own 
only  son  (which  is  of  truth  a  goodly  young  gentleman,  and  shall, 
I  trust,  come  to  much  worship)  had  lost  his  head,  than  that  I 
should  thus  have  refused  the  oath.  For  surely  the  king's 
Highness  would  now  conceive  a  great  suspicion  against  me, 
and  think  that  the  matter  of  the  nun  of  Canterbury  was  all 
contrived  by  my  drift.  To  which  I  said  that  the  contrary  was 
true  and  well  known  ;  and  whatsoever  should  mishap  me,  it 
lay  not  in  my  power  to  help  it  without  the  peril  of  my  soul. 

"  Then  did  my  lord  chancellor  repeat  before  me  my  refusal 
unto  Master  Secretary,  as  to  him  that  was  going  unto  the 
king's  Grace ;  and  in  the  rehearsing  his  lordship  repeated  again 
that  I  denied  not  l)ut  was  content  to  swear  unto  the  succession. 
Whereunto  I  said,  that  as  for  that  point  I  would  be  content,  so 
that  I  might  see  my  oath  in  that  point  so  framed,  in  such  a 
manner  as  might  stand  with  my  conscience.  Then  said  my 
lord  :  '  Marry,  Master  Secretary,  mark  that  too,  that  he  will  not 
swear  that  neither  but  under  some  certain  manner '.  '  \^erily  no, 
my  lord,'  quoth  I,  '  but  that  I  will  see  it  made  in  such  wise 
first  as  I  shall  myself  see  that  I  shall  neither  be  forsworn  nor 
swear  against  my  conscience.'  Surely  as  to  swear  to  the  succes- 
sion I  see  no  peril :  but  I  thought  and  think  it  reason  that  to 
mine  own  oath  I  look  well  myself,  and  be  of  counsel  also  in  the 
fashion ;  and  never  intended  to  swear  for  a  piece  and  set  my  hand 
to  the  whole  oath.  Howbeit,  as  help  me  (iod,  as  touching  the 
whole  oath  I  never  withdrew  any  man  from  it,  nor  never  advised 
any  to  refuse  it,  nor  never  put  nor  will  put  any  scruple  in  any 
man's  head,  but  leave  every  man  to  his  own  conscience.  And 
methinketh  in  good  faith  that  so  were  it  good  reason  that  every 
man  should  leave  me  to  mine."  * 

Although  this  letter  was  written  by  More  lo  his  daughter,  yet 
there  are,  if  I  mistake  not,  several  passages  intended  rather  for 
the  eyes  of  others  than  for  hers.  There  was  every  likelihood 
that  sooner  or  later  the  letter  might  come  before  the  Council  or 

*  English  Works,  p.  1428. 

35^  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

the  king,  and  he  wished  to  have  an  accurate  record  of  what 
had  passed,  and  of  his  reasons  for  refusing  the  oath. 

Sir  Thomas  mentions  that  the  Bishop  of  Rochester  has  been 
sent  "  hither".  He  means  to  the  Tower,  for  it  is  known  from 
Roper  that,  after  refusing  the  oath.  Sir  Thomas  was  kept  in  the 
custody  of  the  Abbot  of  Westminster  for  four  days  while  the 
king  consulted  with  his  Council  as  to  his  future  treatment. 
On  Friday,  17th  April,  he  was  sent  to  the  Tower,  whence  he 
wrote  to  his  anxious  daughter  the  letter  that  has  just  been 

His  committal  to  the  Tower  was  the  result  of  the  following 
correspondence  between  Cranmer  and  Cromwell : — 

"Right  Worshipful  Master  Cromwell, — 

"  After  most  hearty  commendations,  etc.  I  doubt  not 
but  you  do  right  well  remember  that  my  Lord  of  Rochester  and 
Master  More  were  contented  to  be  sworn  to  the  Act  of  the 
king's  succession,  but  not  to  the  preamble  of  the  same.  What 
was  the  cause^of  their  refusal  I  am  uncertain,  and  they  would 
by  no  means  express  the  same.  Nevertheless,  it  must  needs 
be  either  the  diminution  of  the  authority  of  the  Bishop  of 
Rome,  or  else  the  reprobation  of  the  king's  first  pretensed 
matrimony.  But  if  they  do  obstinately  persist  in  their  opinions 
of  the  preamble,  yet  meseemeth  it  should  not  be  refused,  if  they 
will  be  sworn  to  the  very  Act  of  Succession,  so  that  they  will 
be  sworn  to  maintain  the  same  against  all  powers  and  potentates. 

"  For  hereby  shall  be  a  great  occasion  to  satisfy  the  princess- 
dowager  and  the  Lady  Mary,  which  do  think  that  they  should 
damn  their  souls  if  they  should  abandon  and  relinquish  their 
estates.  And  not  only  it  should  stop  the  mouths  of  them,  but 
also  of  the  emperor  and  other  their  friends,  if  they  give  as  much 
credence  to  my  Lord  of  Rochester  and  Master  More  speaking 
or  doing  against  them,  as  they  hitherto  have  done,  and  thought 
that  all  should  have  done,  when  they  spake  and  did  with  them. 

"  And,  peradventure,  it  should  be  a  good  quietation  to  many 

REFUSAT.    OF    THE    OATH.  559 

Other  within  this  reahn,  if  such  men  should  say  that  the  succes- 
sion comprised  within  the  said  Act  is  good  and  according  to 
God's  laws.  For  then,  I  think,  there  is  not  one  within  this 
realm  that  would  once  reclaim  against  it.  And  whereas  divers 
jjcrsons,  either  of  a  wilfulness  will  not,  or  of  an  indurate  and 
invertible  conscience  cannot,  alter  from  their  opinions  of  the 
king's  first  pretensed  marriage  (wherein  they  have  once  said 
their  minds,  and  percase  have  a  persuasion  in  their  heads  that 
if  they  should  now  vary  therefrom  their  fame  and  estimation 
were  distained  for  ever),  or  else  of  the  authority  of  the  Bishop 
of  Rome  ;  yet,  if  all  the  realm  with  one  accord  would  apprehend 
the  said  succession,  in  my  judgment  it  is  a  thing  to  be  am- 
l^lected  and  embraced.  Which  thing,  though  I  trust  surely  in 
(lod  that  it  shall  be  brought  to  pass,  yet  hereunto  might  not  a 
little  avail  the  consent  and  oaths  of  these  two  persons,  the 
Bishop  of  Rochester  and  Master  More,  with  their  adherents^ 
or,  rather,  confederates. 

'•  And  if  the  king's  pleasure  so  were,  their  said  oaths  might 
be  suppressed,  but  [i.e.,  except]  when  and  where  His  Highness 
might  take  some  commodity  by  the  publishing  of  the  same. 
Thus  Our  Lord  have  you  ever  in  His  conservation. 

"  P>om  my  manor  at  Croydon,  the  17th  day  of  April. 
"  Your  own  assured  ever, 

"Thomas  Cantuar."* 

The  last  clause  about  suppressing  the  exact  nature  of  the 
oath  to  be  taken  by  More  and  Fisher  is  worthy  of  Cranmer.  It 
was  to  be  given  out  (such  was  the  scheme)  that  they  had 
yielded,  so  as  to  induce  others  to  yield  ;  but  occasionally  it 
might  "suit  the  king's  commodity,"  as  when  dealing  with 
persons  of  similar  scruples,  to  reveal  and  use  the  modified  form. 

Cromwell  laid  the  archbishop's  letter  before  the  king.  His 
Majesty  did  not  deny  that  another  form  of  oath  would  satisfy 
the  Act,  l)ut  it  would  by  no  means  satisfy  his  intentions  and 
policy,  for  his  whole  object  was  to  humble  Sir  Thomas,  and 

*  Burnet,  i.  255.     Also  (in  abridgment'  in  Letters  and  Papers,  vii.  499. 

360  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

bend  him  to  his  will  in  the  matter  of  the  divorce.  Without 
any  regard,  therefore,  to  justice,  he  bade  his  minister  return 
the  following  answer : — 

"  My  lord,  after  mine  humble  commendation,  it  may  please 
Your  Grace  to  be  advertised  that  I  have  received  your  letter 
and  showed  the  same  to  the  king's  Highness,  who,  perceiving 
that  your  mind  and  opinion  is  that  it  were  good  that  the 
Bishop  of  Rochester  and  Master  More  should  be  sworn  to 
the  king's  succession,  and  not  to  the  preamble  of  the  same, 
thinketh  that  if  their  oaths  should  be  taken  it  were  an  occasion 
to  all  men  to  refuse  the  whole,  or  at  least  the  like.  For,  in 
case  they  be  sworn  to  the  succession,  and  not  to  the  preamble, 
it  is  to  be  thought  that  it  might  be  taken  not  only  as  a  con- 
firmation of  the  Bishop  of  Rome's  authority,  but  also  as  a 
reprobation  of  the  king's  second  marriage.  Wherefore,  to  the 
intent  that  no  such  things  should  be  brought  into  the  heads 
of  the  people  by  the  example  of  the  said  Bishop  of  Rochester 
and  Master  More,  the  king's  Highness  in  no  wise  willeth  but 
that  they  shall  be  sworn  as  well  to  the  preamble  as  to  the  Act. 
Wherefore,  His  Grace  specially  trusteth  that  ye  will  in  no  wise 
attempt  or  move  him  to  the  contrary ;  for,  as  His  Grace  sup- 
poseth,  that  manner  of  swearing,  if  it  shall  be  suffered,  may 
be  an  utter  destruction  of  his  whole  cause,  and  also  to  the 
effect  of  the  law  made  for  the  same." 

Roper  had  never  seen  these  letters,  but  they  entirely  bear 
out  his  assertion,  that  "albeit  in  the  beginning  they  (the 
commissioners)  were  resolved  with  an  oath  not  to  be  acknown 
[i.e.,  acknowledged]  whether  he  had  to  the  supremacy  been 
sworn,  or  what  he  thought  thereof,  he  should  be  discharged ; 
yet  did  Queen  Anne,  by  her  importunate  clamour,  so  sore 
exasperate  the  king  against  him,  that,  contrary  to  his  former 
resolution,  he  caused  the  said  oath  of  supremacy  to  be  minis- 
tered unto  him  ;  who,  albeit  he  made  a  discreet,  qualified 
answer,  nevertheless  was  forthwith  committed  to  the  Tower  ". 

The  words  used  by  Roper  should  be  noted.     Burnet  and 

REFUSAL    OF    THE    OATH.  361 

Others  find  fault  with  CathoHc  writers  for  speaking  of  an 
oath  of  supremacy  instead  of  an  oath  of  succession.  Roper, 
however,  who  was  a  lawyer  as  well  as  a  contemporary,  knew 
perfectly  well  what  he  wrote.  Had  the  oath  been  merely  to 
the  succession  of  the  crown,  as  was  the  intention  of  parliament, 
More  would  have  taken  it,  while  regretting  the  motives  or 
premisses  that  had  led  to  the  change.  But  because  the  oath 
was  converted  into  one  of  supremacy,  he  refused  it. 

To  clear  up  the  matter,  I  may  remark  that,  although  the 
denial  of  the  Pope's  supremacy  in  the  Church  in  no  way 
logically  involves  the  affirmation  of  the  king's  supremacy  in 
the  Church  of  England  (as  the  whole  of  non-conformist 
England  has  perfectly  well  understood),  yet  at  the  period  in 
question  the  two  were  inseparable  in  men's  minds.  The 
headship  of  the  king  was  insisted  on  simply  to  get  rid  of 
the  Pope's  authority.  The  Pope's  authority  was  denied  simply 
to  make  place  for  the  king's  prerogative.  Thus  John  Leek 
confesses  that  he  had  advised  Blessed  John  Hall  "not  to  go 
to  Hounslow  before  the  commissioners  to  take  oath  to  re- 
nounce the  papacy  and  acknowledge  the  king's  supremacy  " ; 
and  he  is  speaking  of  no  other  oath  than  that  exacted  in  virtue 
of  this  Act  of  Succession  in  the  spring  of  1534.*  Though  the 
form  of  oath  subscribed  by  the  clergy  was  much  more  explicit 
on  these  points  than  any  that  was  proposed  to  Sir  Thomas 
More,  yet  there  were  in  it  clauses  or  words  implying  the  same 
doctrines,  as  Cranmer's  letter  testifies. 

Hence  Sir  Thomas,  on  his  committal  to  the  Tower,  while 
accepting  and  even  rejoicing  in  the  Providence  of  (iod,  did 
not  conceal  the  injustice  of  his  imprisonment  on  the  i)art  of 
men.  "  I  may  tell  thee,  Meg,  they  that  have  committed  mc 
hither  for  refusing  of  this  oath,  not  agreeable  with  their 
statute,  are  not  by  their  own  law  able  to  justify  mine  imprison- 
ment. And  surely,  daugluer,  it  is  a  great  pity  that  any  Chris- 
tian prince  should,  by  a  flexible  council,  ready  to  follow  his 

*  Letters  ami  Papers,  viii.  565. 

362  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

affections,  and  by  a  weak  clergy,  lacking  grace  constantly  to 
stand  to  their  learning,  with  flattery  be  so  shamefully  abused."  * 
Lest  it  be  suspected  that  Margaret  may  not  have  exactly 
reported  her  father's  words,  or  that  Sir  Thomas  may  have 
spoken  hastily,  I  will  add  that  the  best  legal  authorities  of 
modern  times  entirely  accept  More's  view,  as  related  by 
Roper;  and  that  the  government  virtually  acknowledged  its 
error,  by  causing  parliament  to  ratify  their  past  arbitrary  pro- 
ceedings. A  new  session  began  on  the  3rd  of  November, 
1534.  Roper  says  :  "At  length,  the  Lord  Chancellor  and  Mr. 
Secretary,  espying  their  own  oversight,  were  fain  to  find  the 
means  that  another  statute  should  be  made  for  the  confirma- 
tion of  the  oath  so  amplified  with  their  additions  ". 

Sir  James  Mackintosh  writes  :  "An  Act  was  passed t  which 
ratifies  and  professes  to  recite  the  form  of  oath  promulgated 
on  the  day  of  prorogation  ;  and  enacts  that  the  oath  above 
recited  shall  be  reputed  to  be  the  very  oath  intended  by  the 
former  Act  of  Succession,  though  there  were,  in  fact,  some 
substantial  and  important  interpolations  in  the  latter  Act".| 
And  Lord  Chancellor  Campbell,  writing  of  the  attainder  of 
More  in  this  same  session,  "for  refusal  to  take  the  oath  of 
supremacy,'"'  says  it  was  "an  offence  created  by  no  law"; 
since  (as  he  explains  elsewhere)  the  commissioners  had  no 
right  to  foist  the  question  of  the  Pope's  supremacy,  or  the 
king's  supremacy,  into  an  oath  which  should  have  been  limited 
to  the  succession.  An  oath  to  the  succession  had  never  been 
refused  by  either  More  or  Fisher,  yet  in  the  winter  session 
they  were  both  attainted  of  misprision  of  treason.  In  the  Act 
which  relates  to  More,§  the  king's  grants  of  land  to  him  in 
1523  and  1525  are  resumed;  it  is  alleged  that  he  refused  the 
oath  since  ist  May  of  1534,  with  an  intent  to  sow  sedition, 
and  he  is  reproached  for  having  demeaned  himself  in  other 
respects  ungratefully  and  unkindly  to  the  king,  his  benefactor. 

*  From  a  conversation  reported  b}'  Roper.         \  26  Hen.  viii.  cap.  2. 
X  Life  of  More,  p.  176.  §  26  Hen.  viii.  cap.  23. 



"T^^HEN  Sir  Thomas  was  going  to  the  Tower,"  says  Roper, 
\^  "  wearing  as  he  commonly  did  a  chain  of  gold  about 
his  neck,  Sir  Richard  Southwell,  that  had  the  charge 
of  his  conveyance  thither,  advised  him  to  send  home  his  chain 
to  his  wife  or  to  some  of  his  children.  'Nay,  sir,'  quoth  he, 
'  that  I  will  not ;  for  if  I  were  taken  in  the  field  (of  battle)  by 
my  enemies,  I  would  they  should  somewhat  fare  the  better  for 
me.'  At  whose  landing  Mr.  Lieutenant*  was  ready  at  the 
Tower  gate  to  receive  him,  where  the  porter  demanded  of  him 
his  upper  garment.  '  Mr.  Porter,'  quoth  he,  '  here  it  is,'  and 
took  off  his  cap  and  delivered  to  him,  saying :  '  I  am  very 
sorry  it  is  no  better  for  thee '.  '  No,  sir,'  quoth  the  porter, 
'  I  must  have  your  gown.'  And  so  was  he  by  Mr.  Lieutenant 
conveyed  to  his  lodging,  where  he  called  unto  him  John  a 
Wood,  his  own  servant,  there  appointed  to  attend  him,  who 
could  neither  write  nor  read,  and  sware  him  before  the  lieu- 
tenant, that  if  he  should  hear  or  see  him  at  any  time  speak  or 
wTite  any  matter  against  the  king,  Council,  or  the  state  of  the 
realm,  he  should  open  it  to  the  lieutenant,  that  the  lieutenant 
might  incontinent  reveal  it  to  the  Council." 

Most  of  the  buildings  of  the  great  fortified  enclosure,  then 
and  now  called  the  Tower  of  London,  still  stand  as  in  the  days 
of  Henry  \lll.     Of  these,  none  is  more  generally  known  than 

*Sir  Edmund  Walsingham. 



the  Beauchamp  Tower  in  the  western  ward,  which  is  tradition- 
ally said  to  have  been  the  place  of  confinement  of  Sir  Thomas 
More.  According  to  the  fixed  scale  of  charges  of  the  lieu- 
tenant, Sir  Thomas  as  a  knight  paid  fees  of  ten  shillings  a  week 
for  himself  and  five  shillings  for  his  servant.  A  bill  of  charges 
drawn  up  a  few  years  after  his  death  contains  the  following 

Plan  of  the  Tower. 

1.  The  Bell  Tower.  4.  The  Lieutenant's  Lodgings. 

2.  The  Beauchamp  Tower.  5.  The  Scaffold. 

3.  St.  Peter's  ad  Vincula.  6.  All  Hallows,  Barking. 

entry  :  "  Sir  Thomas  More  for  3  m.  [months]  unpaid,  after  40s. 
and  his  servant  after  5s.  [a  week]  .  .  .  ;£()  ".*  This  heavy 
charge  of  about  £6  a  week  in  modern  value  ought  to  have 
purchased  a  generous  diet,  yet  from  details  to  be  mentioned 
presently  it  would  seem  that  even  the  smallest  comforts  had  to 
be  supplied  by  friends  from  outside.  Yet,  in  August,  1534, 
•^^  Cotton  MSS.  (B.xM.)  ;  Titus,  Bk.  i. 

THE    TOWER.  365 

Margaret  Roper  told  her  sister-in-law  that  "besides  his  old 
disease  of  his  breast,  he  was  now  grieved  in  the  reins  by  reason 
of  gravel  and  stone,  and  with  the  cramp  that  divers  nights 
griped  his  legs  ".  * 

This  did  not  satisfy  his  spirit  of  mortification  and  penance. 
It  had  long  been  a  practice  with  him  on  certain  days  to  wear  a 
rough  hair  shirt,  and  he  continued  this  in  the  prison  cell  till  his 
death.  Roper  relates  that  one  summer  evening  when  he  sat  at 
supper  with  his  family  and  had  laid  aside  his  gown,  his  young 
daughter-in-law,  Anne  Cresacre,  chanced  to  espy  the  hair  shirt, 
and  began  to  laugh  at  it.  His  daughter  Margaret,  perceiving  this, 
acquainted  her  father,  who  was  sorry  that  his  austerities  were 
detected.  This  beloved  child  entered  into  the  secrets  of  her 
fathers  heart.  She  had  been  accustomed  to  wash  the  hair 
shirt  for  him,  and  to  her  the  day  before  his  death  he  had  it 
secretly  conveyed.!  A  part  of  this  precious  relic  lies  before 
me  as  I  write.  If  the  holy  prisoner  sought  by  penitential  ex- 
ercises to  communicate  more  closely  with  the  Passion  of  Our 
Lord,  he  kept  up  his  sympathy  with  the  Church  during  his 
isolation,  by  celebrating  all  her  feasts,  at  least  in  spirit,  within 
the  walls  of  his  dungeon.  Stapleton  learnt  from  one  of  those 
who  cherished  every  detail  of  his  martyrdom,  that  he  was  ac- 
customed to  dress  more  carefully,  as  far  as  his  slender  wardrobe 
allowed,  when  the  great  feasts  came  round. + 

The  rigour  of  confinement  varied  much  in  English  prisons  of 
that  date,  according  to  the  quality  of  the  offender,  the  nature 
of  his  offence,  or  his  means  of  purchasing  the  indulgence  or 
connivance  of  his  jailor.  The  lieutenant  of  the  Tower,  Sir 
Edmund    Walsingham,    had    been    a   friend    of   Sir   Thomas. 

*  English  Works,  p.  1434. 

t  It  was  from  her  that  Roper  learnt  these  details,  and  also  that  he  was 
wont  on  certain  days  to  punish  his  body  with  whips  and  knotted  cords. 

I  That  he  had  at  least  two  "  gowns  "  is  clear  from  his  own  words  in  a 
letter,  that,  when  summoned  before  the  Council,  "he  changed  his  gown," 
and  from  the  fact  that,  when  about  to  go  to  the  scaftbld,  he  wished  to  put 
on  his  best  apparel. 

366  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

Roper  tells  us  that  soon  after  his  illustrious  prisoner's  committal 
to  his  charge,  he  visited  him,  and  declared  that  from  old  affec- 
tion and  from  gratitude  for  favours  he  had  himself  received,  he 
would  gladly  "make  him  good  cheer,"  but  that  this  he  could 
not  do  without  incurring  the  anger  of  the  king.  Sir  Thomas 
replied  :  "  Mr.  Lieutenant,  I  verily  believe  as  you  say,  and 
heartily  thank  you  ;  and  assure  yourself,  I  do  not  mislike  my 
cheer;  but  whensoever  I  so  do,  then  thrust  me  out  of  your 
doors ".  Doubtless  Sir  Edward  Walsingham  in  later  days 
would  often  relate  this  merry  saying  of  the   martyr. 

In  a  book  written  in  the  Tower,  that  will  be  described  pre- 
sently, Sir  Thomas  gives  us  a  glimpse  of  his  prison  cell,  if  (as 
it  seems  certain)  he  is  writing  of  himself  and  his  wife,  "  I  wist 
a  woman  once  that  came  into  a  prison  to  visit  of  her  charity  a 
poor  prisoner  there,  whom  she  found  in  a  chamber  (to  say  the 
truth)  meetly  fair,  and  at  the  leastw^ise  it  was  strong  enough. 
But  with  mats  of  straw  the  prisoner  had  made  it  so  warm,  both 
under  the  feet  and  round  about  the  walls,  that  in  these  things, 
for  the  keeping  of  his  health,  she  was  on  his  behalf  glad  and 
very  well  comforted.  But  among  many  other  displeasures  that 
for  his  sake  she  was  sorry  for,  one  she  lamented  much  in  her 
mind,  that  he  should  have  the  chamber  door  shut  upon  him  by 
night,  and  made  fast  by  the  jailor  that  should  shut  him  in. 
'  For,  by  my  troth,'  quoth  she,  '  if  the  door  should  be  shut  upon 
me,  I  would  ween  it  would  stop  up  my  breath.'  At  that  word 
of  hers  the  prisoner  laughed  in  his  mind  ;  but  he  durst  not 
laugh  aloud,  nor  say  nothing  to  her,  for  somewhat  indeed  he 
stood  in  awe  of  her,  and  had  his  finding  there  much  part  of  her 
charity  for  alms  ;  but  he  could  not  but  laugh  inwardly,  while 
he  wist  well  enough  that  she  used  on  the  inside  to  shut  every 
night  full  surely  her  own  chamber  to  her,  both  doors  and  win- 
dows too,  and  used  not  to  open  them  of  all  the  long  night. 
And  what  difference,  then,  as  to  the  stopping  of  the  breath, 
whether  they  were  shut  up  within  or  without  ?  "  * 

*  Dialogue  uf  Comfort,  Bk.  iii.  ch.  20. 

THE   TOWER.  367 

From  this  and  other  details  it  would  seem  that  Sir  Thomas 
was  treated  at  first  with  some  leniency.  Indeed,  he  appears  to 
have  been  allowed  the  range  of  the  Tower,  or  at  least  occasional 
exercise  in  the  garden  as  well  as  access  to  the  church  ;  for  when 
this  liberty  had  been  restricted,  his  daughter  wrote  that  she 
"  cannot  hear  what  moved  them  to  shut  him  up  again.  She 
supposes  that,  considering  he  was  of  so  temperate  mind  that 
he  was  content  to  abide  there  all  his  life  with  such  liberty,  they 
thought  it  not  possible  to  incline  him  to  their  will,  except  by 
restraining  him  from  the  church,  and  the  company  of  his  wife 
and  children.  She  remembers  that  he  told  her  in  the  garden 
that  these  things  were  like  enough  to  chance  shortly  after."  * 

So  thoroughly  had  Sir  Thomas  More  trained  himself  to 
make  the  best  of  everything,  that  he  found  in  the  solitude  of 
the  prison  the  realisation  of  his  early  aspirations  to  a  monastic 
and  contemplative  life.  "  When  he  had  remained  in  the  Tower 
little  more  than  a  month,"  writes  Roper,  "  my  wife,  longing  to 
see  her  father,  by  her  earnest  suit  at  length  got  leave  to  go 
unto  him.  At  whose  coming,  after  the  seven  psalms  and  litany 
said  (which  whensoever  she  came  unto  him,  ere  he  fell  in  talk 
of  any  worldly  matter,  he  used  accustomably  to  say  with  her), 
among  other  communication  he  said  unto  her :  '  I  believe, 
Meg,  that  they  that  have  put  me  here  ween  they  have  done 
me  a  high  displeasure  :  but  I  assure  thee  on  my  faith,  mine 
own  good  daughter,  if  it  had  not  been  for  my  wife  and  ye  that 
be  my  children,  I  would  not  have  failed  long  ere  this  to  have 
closed  myself  in  as  strait  a  room,  and  straiter  too.t  But  since 
I  am  come  hither  without  mine  own  desert,  1  trust  that  God  of 
His  goodness  will  discharge  me  of  my  care,  and  with  His 
gracious  help  supply  my  lack  among  you.  I  find  no  cause,  I 
thank  God,  Meg,  to  reckon  myself  in  worse  case  here  than  at 
home;  for  methinketh  God  maketh  me  a  wanton  {i.e.,  a  si)oiled 
child),  and  setteth  me  on  His  lap  and  dandleth  me.' " 

Prisoners  have  little  or  no  history.      From  May,  1534,  when 

*  Letter  of  Margaret  Roper,  English  Works^  p.  1446, 

t  See  supra,  p.  25. 

368  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

he  finally  refused  the  oath,  to  May,  1535,  when  new  troubles 
began,  is  almost  a  blank  in  the  records  of  Sir  Thomas  More. 
It  is  hard  to  realise  the  monotony  of  his  life.  When  he  had 
been  secluded  from  the  church,  Sunday  and  feast-day  must 
have  passed  without  bringing  even  that  variety  they  give  to 
modern  prison  discipline.  There  were,  indeed,  two  churches 
within  the  precincts  of  the  Tower,  which  may  still  be  seen — 
the  ancient  Norman  Church  of  St.  John  in  the  White  Tower, 
and  the  Church  of  St.  Peter  ad  Vincula,  which  had  recently 
been  burnt  down  and  rebuilt ;  but  into  neither  of  these  were 
prisoners  conducted  to  hear  Mass  on  days  of  precept ;  nor  can 
I  find  in  any  records  of  those  days  the  slightest  trace  of  sermons 
preached  or  sacraments  administered,  with  the  one  exception 
of  confession  before  execution. 

Lady  More  was  allowed  once  or  twice  to  visit  her  husband. 
He  has  told  us  of  his  amusement  at  her  horror  of  suffocation 
under  locks  and  bolts.  Another  interview  is  related  by  Roper, 
the  details  of  which  may  have  been  witnessed  by  Margaret 
Roper  or  related  by  Sir  Thomas  to  Margaret,  or,  perhaps,  told 
by  Lady  More  herself.  "  When  Sir  Thomas,"  writes  Roper, 
"  had  continued  a  good  while  in  the  Tower,  my  lady,  his  wife, 
obtained  licence  to  see  him.  Who,  at  her  first  coming,  like  a 
simple,  ignorant  woman  and  somewhat  worldly  too,  with  this 
manner  of  salutation  homely  saluted  him  :  '  W^hat  a  good 
year  !  *  Mr.  More,'  quoth  she,  '  I  marvel  that  you,  that  hitherto 
have  been  taken  for  a  wise  man,  will  now  so  play  the  fool,  to 
lie  here  in  this  close,  filthy  prison,  and  be  content  thus  to  be 
shut  up  among  mice  and  rats,  when  you  might  be  abroad  at 
your  liberty,  and  with  the  favour  and  goodwill  both  of  the  king 
and  his  Council,  if  you  would  but  do  as  all  the  bishops  and  best 
learned  of  this  realm  have  done.  And  seeing  you  have  at 
Chelsea  a  right  fair  house,  your  library,  your  gallery,  garden, 
orchard,  and  all  other  necessaries  so  handsome  about  you,  where 
you  might  in  the  company  of  me,  your  wife,  your  children,  and 
*  A  well-known  exclamation  in  those  daj's. 

THE    TOWER.  369 

household,  be  merry,  I  muse  what  (a  God's  name  !)  you  mean 
here  still  thus  fondly  to  tarry.'  After  he  had  awhile  quietly 
heard  her,  with  a  cheerful  countenance,  he  said  unto  her  :  '  Is 
not  this  house  as  nigh  heaven  as  mine  own  ?  '  To  whom  she, 
after  her  accustomed  homely  fashion,  not  liking  such  talk, 
answered  :  'Twittle,  twattle,  twittle,  twattle  ! '  '  How  say  you, 
Mrs.  Alice,  is  it  not  so  ?  '  '  Bone  Deus,  bone  Deus,  man,  will 
this  gear  never  be  left  ? '  quoth  she.  '  Well  then,  Mistress  Alice, 
if  it  be  so,  it  is  very  well  ;  for  I  see  no  great  cause  why  I 
should  much  joy  in  my  gay  house,  or  in  anything  thereunto 
belonging,  when,  if  I  should  but  seven  years  lie  buried  under 
the  ground,  and  then  arise  and  come  thither  again,  I  should 
not  fail  to  find  some  therein  that  would  bid  me  get  out  of  doors, 
and  tell  me  it  were  none  of  mine.  What  cause  have  I,  then,  to 
like  such  a  house  as  would  so  soon  forget  its  master  ? '  " 

Lady  More  was  evidently  one  of  those  good  souls  to  whom 
respectability  is  the  law  of  laws,  and  to  whom  a  scruple  to  do 
what  decent  people  do  is  simply  uninteUigible.  She  probably 
thought  that  too  much  learning  or  too  much  religion  had 
driven  Sir  Thomas  mad.  Yet  she  meant  well,  and  was  kind 
and  devoted,  and  was  depriving  herself  of  the  very  things  she 
most  cherished,  in  order  to  pay  his  weekly  pension.  Her 
husband,  therefore,  loved  and  esteemed  her,  though  he  could 
smile  at  her  weaknesses,  and  did  not  expect  from  her  a  heroism 
of  which  she  could  not  even  frame  a  conception. 

Very  different  was  his  correspondence  and  conversation  with 
his  daughter  Margaret.  According  to  a  marginal  note  in 
RastelTs  edition  of  More's  works,  she  had  taken  the  oath  with 
the  clause  "  as  far  as  it  would  stand  with  the  law  of  God,"  a 
manner  of  swearing  that  the  government  would  occasionally 
connive  at.  She  seems  to  have  more  than  once  by  word  or 
letter  tried  to  persuade  her  father  to  conform  his  conscience  to 
that  of  the  men  of  learning  and  reputation  who  had  yielded. 
The  following  letters  will  tell  their  own  tale.  Only  one  of 
them,  however,  is  dated  ;    this  is  a  letter  from   Lady  Alington, 




More's  step-daughter,  to  Margaret  Roper.  It  was  written  on 
the  Monday  after  St.  Lawrence  (loth  August),  1534.  She 
relates  an  interview  she  had  had  with  Audley,  the  lord  chan- 
cellor, whose  help  she  had  asked  in  favour  of  Sir  Thomas. 
Audley  had  easily  promised  this,  though  he  declared  that  the 
remedy  was  in  More's  own  hands,  if  he  would  put  aside  his 
foolish  scruples  ;  and  he  had  joked  on  the  matter,  relating 
some  fables,  of  which  Lady  Alington  says  :  "In  good  faith, 
they  pleased  me  nothing,  nor  I  wist  not  what  to  say,  for  I  was 
abashed  of  this  answer ;  and  I  see  no  better  suit  than  to 
Almighty  God,  for  He  is  the  comforter  of  all  sorrows  ".* 
Margaret,  however,  took  with  her  this  letter  on  her  next  visit  to 
the  Tower,  the  details  of  which  are  related  in  a  very  long  letter 
to  Lady  Alington,  of  which  I  must  give  merely  an  abridgment. 
After  the  usual  prayers  and  some  conversation  about  his  wife 
and  children,  Margaret  told  her  father  that  she  had  a  letter 
which  proved  how  his  persistence  was  alienating  his  friends. 
More  replied  with  a  smile  :  "  What,  Mistress  Eve  !  hath  my 
daughter  Alington  played  the  serpent  with  you,  and  with  a 
letter  set  you  at  work  to  come  and  tempt  your  father  again,  and 
for  the  favour  that  you  bear  him,  labour  to  make  him  swear 
against  his  conscience  and  so  send  him  to  the  devil  ?  "  And 
after  that  he  said  seriously  and  earnestly  :  ''  Daughter  Margaret, 
we  two  have  talked  of  this  thing  more  than  twice  or  thrice,  and 
I  have  told  you  that  if  it  were  possible  for  me  to  do  the  thing 
that  might  content  the  king's  Grace,  and  God  not  offended,  no 
man  had  taken  this  oath  more  gladly  than  I  would  do  ".  He 
explained  that  he  had  long  and  well  weighed  the  matter,  and 
had  well  considered  all  the  possible  consequences.  God's 
providence  had  now  placed  him  in  that  strait  that  he  must 
either  deadly  displease  God  or  abide  any  worldly  harm  that 
might  fall  for  his  other  sins.  He  read  Lady  Alington's  letter 
very  carefully  twice,  spoke  highly  of  her  affection  for  him  and 
of  his  own  love  for  her  ;  he  laughed  at  Audley's  fables  as  being 

*  English  Works,  p.  1433. 

THE    TOWER.  37  I 

nothing  to  the  point.       Audley  had  said  that  "  he  marvelled 
that  More  was  so  obstinate  in  his  own  conceit  in  a  matter  that 
no  one  scrupled  save  the  blind  bishop  and  he".       The  blind, 
that    is,  the   obstinate    bishop,   was,   of  course,   Blessed    John 
Fisher  of  Rochester.       On  this  More  remarked  that  no  doubt 
many,  both  temporal  and  spiritual,  looked  on  the  taking  of  the 
oath  as  a  mere  trifle,  though  probably  many  did  not  really  think 
this  that  said  it ;    "  But  though  they  did,  daughter,  it  would 
not  make  much  to  me,  not  though  I  should  see  my  Lord  of 
Rochester  say  the  same.     For  albeit  of  very  truth  I  have  him 
in  that  reverent  estimation,  that  I  reckon  in  this  realm  no  one 
man  in  wisdom,  learning,  and  long  approved  virtue  meet  to 
be  compared  with  him,  yet  that  in  this  matter  I  was  not  led  by 
him  very  plainly  appeareth,  in  that  I  refused  the  oath  before  it 
was  offered  to  him,  and  in  that  his  lordship  was  content  to 
have  sworn  of  that  oath  (as  I  perceived  since  by  you)  either 
somewhat  more  or  in  some  other  manner  than  ever  I  minded 
to  do.        Verily,  daughter,   I  never  intend  to  pin  my  soul  at 
another  man's  back,  not  even  the  best  man  that  I  know  this 
day  living.      For  I  know  not  whither  he  may  hap  to  carry  it. 
There  is  no  man  living  of  whom,  while  he  liveth,  I  may  make 
myself  sure.      Some  may  do  for  favour,  and  some  may  do  for 
fear,   and  so  might  they  carry  my  soul  a  wrong  way.      And 
some  might  hap  to  frame  himself  a  conscience,  and  think  that 
if  he  did  it  for  fear  God  would  forgive  it.      And  some  may 
peradventure  think  that  they  will  repent  and  be  shriven  thereof, 
and  that  so  shall  God  remit  it  to  them.      And  some  may  be, 
peradventure,  of  the  mind  that,  if  they  say  one  thing  and  think 
the  while  the  contrary,  God  more  regardeth  the  heart  than  the 
tongue  ;    and  that,  therefore,  their  oath  goeth  upon  what  they 
think   and    not    upon    what    they    say.      But   in   good    faith, 
Margaret,  I  can  use  no  such  ways  in  so  great  a  matter." 

Margaret  told  him  he  was  not  asked  to  swear  against  his 
conscience,  in  order  to  keep  other  men  company,  but  to  instruct 
and  reform  his  conscience  by  the  consideration  that  such  and 

372  SIR    THOMAS    MORE. 

SO  many  men  considered  the  oath  lawful,  and  even  a  duty  since 
parliament  required  it.  He  replied  that  parliament  might  err, 
and  explained  at  considerable  length  when  a  man  is  bound  to 
give  up  his  own  private  opinion  or  judgment.  This  should  be 
done  at  the  infallible  decree  of  a  general  council,  but  not  at 
the  enactment  of  a  parliament. 

"  But,  Margaret,"  he  concluded,  "  for  what  cause  I  refuse  the 
oath  I  will  never  show  you,  neither  you  nor  no  body  else,  except 
the  king's  Highness  should  like  to  command  me.  I  have  refused 
and  do  refuse  the  oath  for  more  causes  than  one.  And  this  I 
am  sure,  that  of  them  that  have  sworn  it,  some  of  the  best 
learned,  before  the  oath  was  required,  plainly  affirmed  the 
contrary  of  such  things  as  they  have  now  sworn,  and  that  not 
in  haste,  but  often  and  after  great  diligence  to  seek  out  the 
truth."  Margaret  caught  at  this,  and  said  that  probably  they 
now  saw  more  than  they  saw  before.  More  would  not  deny 
this  or  condemn  them,  but  he  at  least  had  seen  no  reason  to 
change.  He  told  Margaret,  also,  that  he  was  not  in  the 
minority,  as  some  affirmed.  Throughout  Christendom  the 
greater  part  thought  with  him.  "  But  go  we  now  to  them  that 
are  dead  before,  and  that  are,  I  trust,  in  heaven;  I  am  sure  that 
it  is  not  the  fewer  part  of  them  that,  all  the  time  while  they 
lived,  thought  in  some  of  the  things  that  way  that  I  think 

When  he  saw  his  daughter,  after  this  discussion,  sitting  very 
sadly,  not  from  any  fear  she  had  about  his  soul,  but  at  the 
temporal  consequences  she  foresaw,  he  smiled  again  and  ex- 
claimed:  "  How  now,  daughter  Margaret?  What  now,  Mother 
Eve?  Where  is  your  mind  now?  Sit  not  musing  with  some 
serpent  in  your  breast,  upon  some  new  persuasion  to  offer 
Father  Adam  the  apple  yet  once  again." 

"  In  good  faith,  father,"  replied  Margaret,  "I  can  no  further 
go.  For  since  the  example  of  so  many  wise  men  cannot  move 
you,  I  see  not  what  to  say  more,  unless  I  should  look  to  per- 
suade you  with  the  reason  that  Master  Harry  Pattenson  made." 

THE    TOWER.  373 

(It  will  be  remembered  that  Pattenson  was  More's  fool,  now  in 
the  service  of  the  Lord  Mayor.)  "  For,"  continued  Margaret, 
"  he  met  one  day  one  of  our  men,  and  when  he  had  asked 
where  you  were,  and  heard  that  you  were  in  the  Tower  still,  he 
waxed  angry  with  you,  and  said  :  '  Why?  what  aileth  him  that 
he  will  not  swear  ?  Wherefore  should  he  stick  to  swear  ?  I 
have  sworn  the  oath  myself.'  And  so,"  says  Margaret,  "  have  I 
sworn."  At  this  More  laughed,  and  said  :  "  That  word  was  like 
Eve,  too,  for  she  offered  Adam  no  worse  fruit  than  she  had  eaten 

Margaret  then  told  him  that  Cromwell  had  hinted  that 
parliament  was  not  yet  dissolved,  and  might  decree  worse 
things  against  him.  More  replied  that  he  had  thought  of  this. 
However,  no  man  could  do  him  hurt  without  doing  him  wrong, 
and  he  trusted  God  would  not  suffer  so  good  and  wise  a  prince 
as  Henry  thus  to  requite  the